Monday, August 22, 2011

Texas Accent? What Texas Accent?

A few years ago, I was in California for a large meeting in the company I worked for. I'm an Okie who lived in the Permian Basin most of my adult life. So my soft Oklahoma drawl is overlaid with a layer of West Texas twang. Whenever I visited the corporate offices in Silicon Valley, it wasn't unusual for people to follow me around listening - not so much melodious as a novelty, I expect.

Among the international staff attending this day-long meeting was a woman from our South Korean office. She commented to me during one session that she was having trouble following the speakers (all from the West Coast), due to their accents. She said she had to translate from English to Korean in her head and their pronunciation made this a real challenge.

We were staying at the same hotel, and had dinner together that night. Mindful of what she had told me earlier, I tried to speak slowly and distinctly. At one point I asked her directly if she was able to understand
me ok?

She laughed and said "I went to school at UT. I learned to speak English in Texas. You sound normal to me!"

The University of Texas at Austin ranks consistently in the top 10 US schools educating international students every year. Foreign students at UT focus especially in science and engineering fields. Texas A&M has the second highest international enrollment in Texas. Texas universities have the 3rd highest population of foreign student enrollments in the country, following only California and New York. They come from all over the world, and top home countries for these students are South Korea, India, China, Mexico, and Taiwan.

I keep seeing articles where people opine that Texas accents are some kind of drawback to a successful political campaign.

They should be remindful that such an attitude toward regional dialects is not only inaccurate and based on faulty comparisons, but also is likely to seem awfully provincial on the world stage, where, to a high percentage of international graduates, this is the normal American accent.


No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails