“So when you say you’re not good enough. Do you have any evidence to support that point?”, the psychologist asked.
“Surprisingly, I can’t think of any right now. I am doing all that I can.”
“You see? What is even considered ‘good enough’?”
I used to be very insecure about my own accent and background. Specifically my accent because it reflects my place of origin and my differences from other people around me. As you may not know, I was born in Vietnam. I didn’t come to the States until sophomore year high school. When I first got to the States, I tried so hard to hide my accent. I would refuse to speak Vietnamese, my mother tongue and would solely speak English, hoping one day I would get rid of my Vietnamese accent. But who am I kidding with? Up to that point, I had been speaking Vietnamese for 17 years straight.
But the teenage-me didn’t know how to embrace her own imperfection. Every time I spoke out, people would ask me where I am really from? Though it’s such a simple question, it plagues me more frequently than it should have. I would question my English proficiency every time this happened. Sometimes when people seem to not pay attention to my story or what I have to say, I often blame it all on my accent. I gradually became so self-conscious of my accent, that I hesitated to extensively speak in class or even in a group of friends. This kind of insecurity was honestly getting the best of me. My attempt to confront it usually ended up failing me miserably with consistent thought of “I will never be good enough”.
However I must admit that recently I really miss hearing and speaking Vietnamese. I haven’t had the chance to speak Vietnamese with anyone except, sometimes during the week, when I call my mom, or sometimes a couple friends. But to my surprise I’ve been finding it harder to adequately express myself in Vietnamese. Sometimes I would have to switch to English to get my ideas across. Yet I still have a bit of accent in English. I’m honestly not proud of that.
The other day when I was helping out at this event where I work, one of my colleagues, who is Vietnamese came up to me and started our conversation in Vietnamese in front of my other non-Vietnamese friends. Normally, I would feel quite uncomfortable and awkward. To my surprise, I just thought that was very endearing. So I just casually responded back to him in Vietnamese. We even had an extensive conversation in Vietnamese afterward. Some of our colleagues would walk up to us, and appreciated the fact that we were talking in Vietnamese. They thought it was very impressive that we’re able to fluently speak more than one language.
Despite his accent, my colleague spoke with such confidence, as if he seriously didn’t give a freak about what people think, as long as they understand him. At that time, I seriously had a moment of epiphany. Well that sounds a little bit dramatic, but from that event, everything started coming together. Someone used to tell me that it is true that we shouldn’t change who we are for someone else, but sometimes if you sound too Asian, they would think that you’re not as intellectually capable. So it’s better to sound white to get more opportunities and respect. That’s just how life is.
But maybe it doesn’t always have to be that way. Maybe if someone doesn’t like you or respect you solely for your accent, then that’s on them. Maybe if people don’t seem to pay attention to what you are saying, then maybe it’s because they have a short concentration span, or you just don’t share the same topic of interest. It would be ideal if you could find someone who you can have a conversation with on just about anything. But this doesn’t always happen in real life, let’s be real. In K-Drama, maybe.
There is nothing wrong with having an accent, as long as you speak with confidence and logic, of course. Don’t just say whatever on your mind silly, or you’ll get yourself in trouble. Anyways, when I took a step back to reflect, I realized that I have met countless of people with an accent that sound ways more knowledgeable and sincere than people without one. Also, the fact that they are capable of mastering another language other than just English makes them stand out from the rest.
Plus, there are distinctive expressions to each language, which cannot be accurately translated to English, and I think this is precious and beautiful.
For example, in Vietnamese, parents often ask their kids, “Con ăn cơm chưa?” whenever they call us. For those of you who don’t speak Vietnamese, this literally means “Have you eaten yet?”. While this means nothing in English, it means everything in Vietnamese. These simple things are loaded with unconditional love and enormous meaning for a Vietnamese person, and I grew up with that. Sometimes I would find myself casually ask my Viet and non-Viet friends whether they have eaten yet, because I genuinely care about their well-beings. Indeed it’s been me-with-the-accent that brought me numerous of amazing opportunities, and there are people who love and support me for who I am. So why let the negative thoughts take over the positive ones?
What I want to say is that you don’t have to change who you are, including your accent to earn respect from people. Of course, if you can, that’s great. But if you can’t completely get rid of it, it’s not the end of the world. There’s always room for improvement. But instead of refusing your own accent, embrace it and instead, work on your communication skills. What’s wrong with being a fob? That just means you got the best of both worlds, and so make the best out of it. Go out there and prove all the people who look down on you wrong. The moment you confidently project yourself to the world, people will be naturally drawn to you.
Have you ever felt the same way I did? How did you cope with it?