Jamaicans, Bajans, Bahamians, Trinis, and all other members of the Caribbean region, I’m not going to lie, we might not think we have an accent until we take that plane to the land of the brave and free and try to order a glass of water.
Notably, it doesn’t matter if you are well-versed in twanging *, as far as they are concerned and even as much as you pronounce what you want, and even frantically point to it; if you don’t sound exactly like them, you’ll have a hard time trying to order that double deluxe sandwich with extra fries and a large frosty.
Do you think that you would adopt the accent of those in your immediate surroundings if you go to the United States of America or any European country?
Some people argue that you would be ‘selling out’ or ‘throwing away’ your actual accent. I mean, let’s be real, some people just don’t like their accent or their dialect, and as such, any or every chance they get they will happily ‘twang’. On the other hand, some just want to be understood as it is a real task to communicate because of the language barrier which is experienced by those speaking a different language. But, aren’t we though, ‘selling out’ or ‘throwing away’ our actual language?
I mean, Creole or Patois is a language, one which some have fought so hard to get recognized. A language that is being taught in other places in schools and universities so much so that persons are willing to pay real money to hear a Jamaican or Caribbean native speak in their accent. Not to mention, the thousands of people who come to the Caribbean daily to be immersed in the culture.
So, the question remains; why are some people so quick to ‘hide their accent’? As I said, it’s just to be understood mainly. It doesn’t matter if you are in a foreign country for two weeks or three years, it’s inevitable that some people are able to switch it up and adopt an accent that they can use to effectively interact with others, especially if they are the only ‘foreigner’.
It’s psychology really, and it stays true to who we are in an ever-adapting world and as time progresses, you will subconsciously start sounding differently the more you are immersed in a culture. Ever heard of the saying “The best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in the culture, the people, and the language” until it becomes second nature. So, even if you don’t realize it, the more you interact the more you (in a way) become like the people you most interact with and a side effect of that is their accent/language.
However, the onus is on you so that when you return to your homeland, you are able to adapt and identify with your culture as if you never left. Even if you have family or friends in the country that you currently stay, they know you better than anyone and you all should be able to take off that façade and talk in your native language and if that’s Patois then by all means. But once you choose to continue ‘twanging’, even around your Caribbean family and friends, it is then that you may get feelings that you are not true to your roots, ashamed of your culture or an imposter; that is where the real problem lies.
By Alexandra Daley
*Twang – Slang term used to refer to when a Jamaican who grew up speaking heavy patois tries to talk in an American/British accent but ends up being a silly-sounding poor attempt because it is not natural. Jamaicans who travel aboard for 3 weeks or less and return with an accent are normally teased with having a twang.