Updated: Jan 24
Throughout history, with the progression of the industrialization, the striving for democratical equality and the immense connection throughout the world, one would believe that people have developed enough to not be prejudiced towards different languages, or their accents. This is sadly, not the case.
I was reading my morning newspaper when I came across an article titled “USA sees increase in Accent Discrimination at Work” as a study from Kwintessential showed. At first, I could not believe what I was seeing, until I realized: I have encountered it before.
When I first join my own media company, a colleague of mine had a slight southern accent and she was seen as inferior, given less opportunities that others. How could this be? In America?
I believed that America, being one of the most powerful countries of the world with a multinational population would know better than what the shocking amount of reports on discrimination towards dialects indicate. Apparently, people are rating each other superior and inferior based on the accents. I believed, emigrating and starting a new life in America would give me better possibilities with a better life.
Never, never would I have thought that the way people pronounce words would affect their worth.
A lot of political power is behind why certain ways of speaking are perceived as superior, such as the american english language. It is understandable to a certain extent, until we reach the stage of which languages and accents are getting discriminated and taken away from people; Accentism, prejudice towards inferior languages.
What many don't realize, are the immense losses of culture and identity getting stripped away from people once they lose their accents. Language, and hence accent is the pure medium of culture. They both intertwined in one another, which can be observed in immigrant societies of America where immigrants are accustomed to a certain language. Despite the assimilation, they continue to use their languages and keep it alive, which creates these multicultural societies in America.
Furthermore, not only are the different accents an expression and a display to the history and heritage, each have their own specific culture, creating divisiveness among neighbouring peoples as well as groups of the same nation.
Diversity between people roots from their language. Each human born experiences almost the same stages of life, with the difference being the environment in which each person grows up in and the languages they become accustomed to. This clearly shows the importance of accents; an entity that connects the individual to his or hers culture, and heritage in formation of an individual's personality. It should never be allowed to be stripped away from oneself.
Accents in a multilingual world are essential components of a quality education, deeply being the foundation for empowering women, men and their societies.
But, why do people not understand this as something important? It just goes beyond me.
Direct discrimination in particular, being what I also encounter the most everywhere with people treating someone less favorably than another because of their accent is just ghastly. People get disadvantages from having foreign accents or even being in contact with leading to the victimisation of people in public places and even in work environments.
If only this cultural diversity with multilingual nations could be more appreciated. Without cultural diversity, there would be zero to no creativity and drift for innovation, hence industrialization as well as no true strive for improvement. A homogenous nation, which is what many countries unfortunately plan for, will only make humanities natural evolution to die out.
As of today, our country, workplaces, and schools consist of various cultures bound to their own languages and ethnic groups and races. With a variety of historical events, we can learn from another, but first, we must have a level of understanding about one another. By embracing the languages, accents and their connective cultures, we gain different perspectives within the world in which we live in. It will help us dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases about different groups.
In exchange, we not only build bridges to trust, respect and understand different cultures, the diversity makes the country more interesting and innovative, with the contribution of language skills, new ways of thinking, new knowledge and different experiences.
In addition, right when we step our foot out of our homes, the heterogeneous diversity built from the different languages shaping and forming people differently, keeps our days worth to live. We recognize ourselves in our own languages, feel safe, loves and like home. A piece of our identity discriminated and stripped away is like losing ourselves.
A great man once said that “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his mother language that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela. From childhood and onwards, the language has shaped us to who we are today and that should only be cherished. There has never been any harm in learning new accents and languages, considering it only opens up a new window of opportunities, helping us to understand life and its surroundings better.
With a raised awareness of the cultures, lifestyles, customs and beliefs of other people, we get a worldview and comprehend the beauty of our historical growth. After all, we all started together, at one spot. We are one, that should not be forgotten.
Cover image credit: https://giphy.com/explore/writing-with-pen