Thursday, March 7, 2013

"You Don't Even Know How To Speak English!"

Culture & Society

English spoken with other than a British, American, Canadian, Australian, or New Zealandian accent is still English, contrary to what people of these five countries might think. In fact, many people from countries other than those afore-mentioned countries speak or write English better than many people from those five. Very often, especially in America, you will hear remarks such as, "Speak English," or, "You don't even know how to speak English," or, "Why don't you learn to speak English," with these remarks being directed at speakers of English for whom English is a second language, as well as those for whom English is the primary language, such as those people from the English-speaking Caribbean. And what is interesting is that while these individuals speak, for the most part, with grammatical accuracy, it is the accent with which they speak that is adjudged as poor English. Any English spoken with a Caribbean, Asian, African, East European, or Central/South American accent, is looked down upon, made fun of, and is often the object of ridicule or mockery. Moreover, English spoken with a British, Australian  or New Zealandian accent is considered sexy, and English spoken with an American accent is perceived as expressing confidence. On the other hand, English spoken with a Caribbean, Asian, or other accent is considered exotic, that is, strange, foreign, interesting and of course inferior. As someone who speaks with a Caribbean accent I have had my share of the remarks above. This confusing of accent with English is further taken to the ridiculous when some of my American friends are awed by my writing and find it difficult to reconcile with writing with my Caribbean accent, for after all, if one is not from the five English-speaking countries above, he or she would not be able to speak "English" well, much less write it as efficiently as I am able to do. What is forgotten is that English is my primary language; I speak it with a Caribbean accent (more specifically a Guyanese accent). Now, what is interesting is that the country with the largest English-speaking population is not Great Britain, not the United States of America or Canada, but India, and like many countries for whom English is a second language or a primary language, they speak and write it darn well.

[Map Above Showing English-speaking Countries]