When I was in middle school, my dad rented a cassette tape entitled “How to lose an accent in 10 days.” It was then when I realized how seriously he had taken my words. I was too young to understand, but deep down my parents were trying desperately to rid themselves of the Asian-American stigma, the caricature with slanted eyes and buckteeth that could only spout out broken sentence fragments to communicate.
Recently I find myself questioning the meaning of the title “How to lose an accent in 10 days.” When an accent is lost, where does it go? More importantly, what’s left after it’s gone? When I think back to my encounters with my classmate, I realize that before he made fun of me, I would never have seen having an accent as a handicap. Vershawn Ashanti Young states: “But don’t nobody’s language, dialect, or style make them ‘vulnerable to prejudice.’ As Laura greenfield point out in her chapter on racism and writing pedagogy in this collection, it’s ATTITUDES” (62). Young means that dialects and accents are only seen as inferior because society has been conditioned to view non-“standard English” in a negative light.
In reality, my parents understand perfect English, but they continue to think that their English is flawed because of their accent. Their only issue is missing a few words here and there when they speak quickly, but these small mistakes should not warrant ridicule or stereotyping. In fact, I find the Chinese-American dialect the most direct form of communication because it completely cuts out words that are not vital to the overall message. Just as Young argues for “the rhetorical devices of blacks” and code meshing to be used in English pedagogy, perhaps someday there can be an iphone app entitled “How to gain an accent in 10 days" (71).