Originally published on LinkedIn in September, 2022.
“Your accent might impede you from getting a job.” – pretentious law school ignoramus.
Growing up in Miami, everyone had an accent. Minorities were the majority. We all sounded the same. Yes, “pero like” is a thing in these parts. Spanglish was our second language. Spanish, the default setting. Broken English was normal. Good luck speaking English if you try hailing an uber here. Miami is a tossed salad from Latin America. Cuban croutons. Colombian cilantro. Dominican-rich plantain dressing. Amongst a slew of sazon from Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, just to name a few.
But it wasn’t until I left the Miami bubble that my accent was the butt of jokes.
“Are you ESL?” “You need to change your accent if you want to sound professional.” “No way you’re American.” Just some of the tone-deaf comments I dealt with on a regular basis in DC, NY and Texas back in the day. Cities which you’d think are diverse, right? Yet at points made me feel “less than” in the professional setting. Which led me to attempt neutralizing my English, seeking help from a voice coach, and working hard to remove any semblance of my Miaminess.
Until a light bulb went off—who the %$^ cares? Seriously, some of the most successful, driven people I know have accents. Why am I letting what defines me be defined by other people? It makes me memorable, distinct, and different from the sea of English-speaking sameness they’re all probably used to.
Now, we live in a climate where accents from all parts of the globe are slowly gaining more acceptance in the mainstream media. From casting in commercials to the stories we see on the silver screen, it’s an empowering feeling knowing you’re seen, heard and represented.
About time accents get their due.