Accents! They’re the first thing you notice about a person when they open their mouth. You can often place a person – the country they come from, the region they grew up in, perhaps even their educational or social background- from their accent. It’s like a blue-print of yourself and your entire background and history.
An accent is a way of pronouncing a language. So everyone has an accent, (even though you think you don’t.) Language experts opine that we pick up an accent right from the time we’re six-month-old babes-in-arms. We acquire our accent not just from our parents, but also from the people around us. A child in Kindergarten will imbibe the accent of his or her teachers as well as friends.
In later years, it’s hard to change your accent. So if you want to learn a foreign language, it’s best to start at an early age. Of course, there’s the Foreign Accent Syndrome, where a person, after a stroke or a head injury, begins speaking in a totally different accent, but this is a topic for another blog,
Trevor Noah, in his book “Born a Crime” talks about the impact of language and of accents on people. Noah says that language brings with it an identitiy and a culture. A shared language – and a shared accent- says “we’re the same.” A different accent quite simply says “we’re different.” He gives the example of black people on screen speaking African languages, which sounded familiar to him. However, when these same programs were dubbed in English, the accent used was the black American accent, and his perception of them changed. He felt they were foreigners.
For many Indians, speaking English with the “right” accent used to be a hallmark of not just education and status, but even of their intelligence. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. A person like the flamboyant politician Shashi Tharoor, with his inflated vocabulary and “posh” English accent, sounds plain ridiculous to us. Here’s a fun YouTube video of “Tharoorisms” u can watch.
Now, coming to Dubai, with its mish-mash of cultures and communities, is there a Dubai accent? I’d very strongly say YES. Listen carefully to a young person’s accent- a TCK or Third Culture Kid -someone who’s born and brought up in Dubai, although they are not from this country. They speak their mother-tongues, but also learn to speak English at a very young age, often from a British, American, Australian, Indian, Phillipina, or South American teacher, or indeed any one of the 200 nationalities who live and work here. Their friends too come from different backgrounds amd different cultures. It’s not surprising that kids who grow up here develop a way of speaking that reflects this mosaic of cultures. Their accents may be a strange mix of British/American and Arabic, with perhaps a regional variant thrown in! Here are some TCK voices:
I’m going to end this blog with a hilarious YouTube video from a very talented guy called Mad Shadz, about the different accents of various nationalities (not TCKs) who all call Dubai their home. Enjoy!!
Mad Shadz talks English in different accents – YouTube
- Thank you, Jagruti Mistry Kartik for bringing to my attention Trevor Noah’s views on language and accents in his brilliant autobiography,”Born a Crime.”
- Thanks to Dia and Kyra for lending their voices, and their lovely moms, Neeru and Cherry.
- Mad Shadz (of course), and Akash Banerjee
- Images: from Google images