I’ve always found accents mignonne (cute) and fun to deal with. Growing up with my mom, who still has an accent in English after 20 years of living in the states, I would at times have to translate her English… to English. Sometimes people would look at me when my mom was trying to explain something, and after I re-explained it, they would understand. I would tease my mom about it, and she would take it lightly, always making a joke about it as well. Then I moved to France… and I now understand that struggle.
The other night, I was hanging out with some French people who speak very little English (I always love being in situations like this, because I am forced to speak French). One of them always laughs when I open my mouth. We can be having the most serious conversation in the world about politics, schools, culture… and I open my mouth, and he laughs. “It’s really cute,” he will always say, when I stumble over phrases, or pronounce the word I want to say wrong and end up saying a total complete other word (that’s gotten me into trouble a few times). Then the other night, he added, “you even have an accent when you laugh.” It was in that moment, when he said the word accent, that I realized I was living the reverse of my childhood.
I now see what my mom used to take so lightly can also be a real struggle.
My mom has always been asked by people trying to figure out my parent’s relationship, “so when you and your husband fight, do you pull a Ricky Ricardo (I Love Lucy) on him and yell in Spanish?” My mom will laugh and reply, “no, I want him to understand why I am so upset.” I have never been able to relate to this until now.
Expressing yourself in a foreign language, one in which you can speak well but one, have an accent and two, still make mistakes, can get frustrating. You want to express yourself completely, but sometimes people don’t take you seriously, or find you cute, or try to help you (which I love) but can’t completely come to terms with what you are trying to say. You have to be patient with yourself and everyone around you.
Then also comes understanding. Being in the midst of an important conversation and not understanding a phrase can slow a process and switch the conversation into a completely new direction.
Even though all these situations on the outside seem fun (and they truly are… most of the times), it really teaches you a lot about yourself and tests your patience. I have asked my boyfriend, who I can tell at times can get somewhat frustrated when he has to explain something and loses his train of thought, if he finds it annoying.
“No, it’s a learning experience”.
It is, but a good one at that. I suppose I just never really thought I would end up being the one with the accent, and most likely due to the fact that I am lucky because I already speak two languages without one. Who doesn’t love accents anyways? I’ve always been a sucker for them. So here’s to new experiences, seeing things from a different point of view, and speaking funny.
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