“You must constantly change and adapt to a new environment.” – Jong-Yong Yun
… And if you were to ask me what I’m most thankful for having traveled outside of my comfort zone, I will respond in the most American way possible, beaming with pride, a rumbling of patriotism for my growth stirs within as the words you believe to be of foreign dialect drips of my lips like sweet honey, as if my tongue has never felt this to be uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Everything just fits perfectly.
After my first year, I came home to visit and every conversation began with “let’s hear that accent” and “Yeah talk, let’s hear it!”, I was commanded to speak, made a spectacle of because no one believed an accent can be picked up so fast so I must have been trying especially hard just to impress people yet they were impressed either way and I spent my vacation trying to get people to understand why it’s so easy to pick up a new accent and that I didn’t try very hard, it came naturally.
I didn’t notice how much my accent had conformed to America until I played back a voice note I recorded and could barely recognize my own voice because I was dragging my words and shortening my A’s and at first that scared me and not because I felt I was losing sight of who I am but because I feared what my fellow South Africans would say and I was right in feeling those emotions because I was judged, it’s all people speak of when I try to have a conversation with them. This bothered me for a long time until I realized I can’t make people understand something they’ve not experienced.
This accent is a lifeline, a little bit of hope when I feel like giving up, it’s a sign of strength and courage for those days when the fear of the unknown tries to hold me back, it is a reminder of my existing bravery when I’m about to venture into something new, it is an indication to people I come in contact with that I have stories and I’m not afraid to tell them, having this accent gives me the confidence to say yes to new experiences, to say yes to new challenges and to look at the world with wide eyes and curiosity.
Now when someone mentions the fact that I speak like an American, a little voice in my head yells out “Murrrrrica” and the flag moves across my imagination and I accept it as a compliment, the best kind of compliment, the little explorer in me climbed out of her shell in the home of the free, caught the travel bug and with it, a little accent too.
I bury my American pride in each word that rolls off of my tongue…