AccentedBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
AN IDLE computer. Two months later, it remains in its stagnant state,
disappointed to find its mouse never yet being used to click on icons, its keyboard never yet being able to hear the riddle of fingertips along its keys and its plush screen never yet having contact with pupils for a sustainable period of time.
Technically, you’d think that if somebody was given such a computer, one that was brand new and highly advanced, filled with all the features one could ask for, that person would instantly be on it, using it to all its capabilities to further their work ethic.
Yeah, but this happens to be my mommy. There’s always an exception to those fundamental rules.
For someone who’s used to typing using only her pointer finger, the expectation that her company had that she’d being able to input progress notes directly into the network in a timely manner, was pure lunacy.
But the company tried to be inventive, trying a voice–recognition system that would make it possible for her to do dictations directly into the computer, without the need to type at all. The idea seems flawless except for the fact that her company forgot to account for one tiny factor that could make or break this wonderfully made marriage of Filipino and computer.
“Peer-pressure. Peer-pressure,” my mommy recited into the microphone.
The electronic message on the screen disagreed though, differing by just a tad:
“PeeRRRRRR,” my mommy said, this time with more clarity.
BeeRRRRRR, the computer insisted.
Well, what do you know? I guess that tiny factor wasn’t tiny after all.
Say hello to the Filipino accent, capable of causing one to incrementally curse out voice-recognition technology for its inability to distinguish the various combinations of consonants the Filipino tongue may throw at it.
For the Filipino, newly acquainted to the American shores, such an accent presented an obstacle that must be overcome, a hurdle into the society known as America, an apparent ‘original sin’ that those from back home were uniquely endowed with that must be cleansed though some form of ‘baptism’ of corrected pronunciation in order to be understood by the regular Joes of Americana.
Fear of the ‘accent’ rested solely on the belief that it was supposedly less advantageous for the one blessed with it, causing one to lose favor immediately when sent into an already fierce American job market where first impressions almost always made the difference.
So in fear was my mommy of its unpleasantness that she maintained a strict policy of never speaking to me in any Filipino tongue, whether Tagalog or Ilocano, to purge whatever effects her inflicted tongue would have on me, a consequence which has lead to the unfortunate disabling of my ability to speak Tagalog to this very day.
With so much hype over a mere difference between a few consonant pronunciations, it does make me wonder whether or not Filipinos have forgotten that their accent isn’t the only one out there. Widen your perspective, you’ll find that the ‘Filipino’ accent is apparently just another accent in a spectrum of accents, from Jamaican to Japanese, each of them filled with their own unique expressions, their own styles and mannerisms, even their own faults.
But even with this much diversity, the sad part about all of this is that Filipinos continue to look down upon their own accent negatively while all those other accents are slowly being accepted by the American culture in which they come in contact with.
The British accent has been embraced by Americans with reverence and homage, while the Aussie way of talking seems to have become a fancy way to spark interest in a bunch of crocodiles with bad tempers. Even the Indian accent, although in a more stereotypical fashion, has gotten some limelight in the American media forever locked in the archives of the Simpsons or found in cabbies on games like Grand Theft Auto III.
As much as all the negative publicity, Filipinos continually surround their own infamous accent with, chastising it as one of the most decrepit of them all.
Let me tell you from experience that I’ve heard much worst. If you’d only take a trip to the city known for its chessesteaks and hoagies, Philadelphia, you’ll find an accent that may make you want to carry earplugs handy.
I had a Puerto Rican classmate who had the hots supposedly for one of the girls in a region of Philadelphia known as South Philly. As great as she looked and as everything, she had that really prominent Philadelphian/Italian mice-like accent that once she spoke up, let’s just say my classmate wanted to do something that would pipe her down for the English she produced was unbearable.
In reality though, it really doesn’t matter whose accent is supposedly better or worst.
For the British person, who moved to America for some reason or another, the last thing their intent on doing is rubbing out their accent, replacing with the more placid American one.
For them, their accent is what makes him or her British in nature, just as British the Union Jack is or the Beatles are.
And Filipinos should do the same. I’m not saying you can’t correct your pronunciation when need be but you also must realize that ‘unique’ accent of yours is part of your culture, one of the things that makes you Filipino, just like your flat nose or your appetite for vinegar.
If you could make that connection, then perhaps finally the Filipino accent can also be accepted just like any other accent that must be dealt with as opposed to being one that must be hidden away and annihilated for hearing’s sake.
I know. So, some of you sound like Tony the Tiger when saying ‘girl,’ and maybe your kids like playing tricks on you by asking you to say words like “hippopotamus” or “beach,” knowing full well you’ll never get it right but when it comes down to it…
It’s your accent. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Just be proud of it.
You’ll TANK me later. – PDM