I’ve always considered the way I speak to be one of my strongest characteristics, with it already providing so many insights into my life and allowing for assumptions to be made such as my education, my place of origin, however inaccurate. It is something that represents me.
But there are many factors that have influenced the way I speak to be how it is today, and this blog post attempts to analyze those in the hopes of inspiring others to take a look at the way they speak.
Firstly you would have to ask, how do I speak? How do I communicate my thoughts, opinions, and ideas to those around me?
After analyzing my communication tendencies, it became apparent that I have a very specific idiolect and that where I grew up would have had a large impact on that. The biggest influence my regional variety would have had would have been on my accent. I grew up in Dubai where I was exposed to a variety of different accents and cultures, affecting how I developed. My mother often tells the story about how when I was young, I would always pick up the accent of whatever teacher I had because I was around them for so long. This would mean that one year I would have a very strong Irish accent and the next, Jamaican, which allowed for my current accent to form into a standard expat accent that has heavy undertones of American. In this way, I had heavy influences from the culture surrounding me on the way I speak today and it shows that I heavily depended on whoever was around me for an extended period to act as a role model.
The reason why my accent ended up sounding so American would be because of how much media I consumed when I was young. Growing up, I would watch an unhealthy amount of TV and would start behaving like the characters I saw on screen, imitating their reaction to social situations. Examples include altering my idiolect by leaving pauses after things I said things for an imaginary laugh soundtrack or even just mimicking their paralinguistics by standing the way they did when they spoke, never facing my back to a certain angle in case I would block some imaginary camera. In this way, Once again this demonstrates that I tended to take after my role models which allowed me to develop a very outgoing personality and a love for attention as I somehow believed that I was the star of my own imaginary show. By imitating these characters, I was able to develop speaking and conversation skills when I was quite young which now gets commonly translated into maturity now, as I use those skills when speaking professionally. Additionally, this demonstrates how my accent misrepresents me because I am not American, nor did I ever attend an American school nor did I ever even visit the US until fairly recently yet one of the first conceptions thought about me when I speak would be that I have some connection to America through one of those ways, yet this doesn’t seem to bother me. I don’t mind this misrepresentation because there are not many negative connotations added to the American accent and all the places I have lived in have held that specific variety to a high standard with positive stereotypes which indicates that I rarely suffer from discrimination. To sum up, my accent was heavily influenced by my geographical background including the cultures and accents found there as well as the media I watched when growing up.
As well as this, I have discovered that at home I rarely have to code-switch and that the register used is a lot more casual than what is expected in most homes. This would be because I had actively made a decision to alter the formality expected at home to allow for a better relationship with my parents, this way I am being more honest about who I am with them and they get to actually know me as a person and not just a result of their procreation. This is seen as odd as the stereotypical relationship between a teenager and their parents isn’t very open and tend to have many difficulties because of the amount of emotional distress but I realized that I wanted a good relationship with my parents and that they are only doing what they can to help me. This also may have been influenced by the fact that my parents are generally older than expected for most kids my age which means that their parenting styles are more casual. The issue with this would be that this does not apply with extended family as I learned. Apparently referring to your Grandpa as ‘sis’ isn’t very appropriate and now I actively code switch to more appropriate language when around extended family. The relevance of all this would be to show how not having to code-switch at home makes it something that doesn’t come as naturally and would be why I found myself unable to speak appropriately for first few weeks after summer and instead used slang such as ‘lmao’ or ‘sike’ or just used a register far too casual for a classroom setting. It is commonly known there are differences in the sociolect used around peers and the ones used in class because of the prestige of the teachers in the class yet oddly I found myself asking why the power and status of the teacher were not registering mentally and why I kept falling back into habits formed throughout the summer. This indicates that the existence of a more casual register at home many have negative effects on my school work but positive effects in my home life.
To conclude, it has become apparent after writing this that I actually tend to pick up a lot of idiosyncratic features from those around me and use them when I speak, whether it be slang or paralinguistic features but that was something that really stood out to me. This could indicate that I unconsciously observe or analyze the movement of others and then begin imitating aspects they used. As well as this, it can be seen that the geographical location of where I grew up had a great impact on my language world today and that I am still altering the way I speak to date.
Just one of the many fascinating things about life.