Monday, 21 November 2011

Guest Post: Mummy's accent

This guest post is from a fellow expat Adele from Circus Queen. I briefly met the stunning Adele at the MADs and immediately wanted to know her experiences of being an expat mother in the UK. Here she shares her concerns about something I've often wondered myself-- what kind of accent will our dual national children have?

It's recently occurred to me that if we continue to live here, my daughter will grow up with a Bristolian accent. I'm not sure how I feel about that. 

There's a certain edgy charm to it, sure, but I just can't get my head around the idea. To be fair, it's not just the Bristol thing. 

This is just part of the general confusion I feel over raising a child who is British when I am not. 

Growing up in Trinidad, a "farrin" (foreign) accent was something exotic.
It meant experiences outside of mine - contact with a bigger world

Though six years of living in the UK have confused my own accent, perhaps
irreparably, I can't help but be weirded out by the idea that the baby
whose nappies I'm changing will sound (and be) "farrin".

But what's in an accent? Can it tell a person’s whole story?

I was teased for mine as a child and teen. For one thing, it was
inexplicably affluent. One sentence and people would make assumptions
about the kind of school I’d been to and the kind of family I was from. I
don’t know why the fact that my accent was associated with wealth was such
a point of amusement for others or why it bothered me so much myself.

Secondly, it morphed according to context. As a teenager a lot of my
sounds were hugely influenced by time spent in a mini-marriage to my best
friend who was in fact “farrin”. She was from Texas.

I was self-conscious about my accent the way some girls are about their
boobs (and, of course, I was conscious of those too).

Then I moved to England and apart from mistaking me for Welsh, people kept
getting confused about whether I meant "hair", "here" or "hear". Uh,
context, please.

Little by little, what started as a bid to be better understood became

For instance, last week, I was thinking through some political issues and
found that when I referred to the “British public”, I’d included myself in
that entity.

For most of the time I’ve lived here, I’ve viewed myself as separate from
“the British”, a self-identified outsider. It was “them” and “me”.

But I’ve married a British man, I am raising a British child, I benefit
from the National Health Service. I pay taxes. I take an interest in
British politics. I watch XFactor. Religiously.

And the more Britishness my life accumulates, the more my accent seems to
transform. Is it disingenuous? Is it self-loathing?

Part of me wants a slap for admitting that I’ve conformed. It's telling me
it's time to buck up, take a swig of rum and start sounding broadly
Caribbean and proud.

But really, I don't see that it is such a big deal. So what if I'm
starting to sound British? Maybe it means I'm becoming more comfortable
with being here. Maybe, just maybe, Britain is becoming home.

And if that's so, perhaps by the time my daughter's old enough to chat
with, I'll not notice that she's "farrin".


Melaina25 said...

Ha! That must be weird. Although thinking about it its the same for me. I am from oop north, and my children all speak the Queen's southern English, so they are as much foreign to me as yours is to you! They do take the mickey out of me though ;)

Melaina25 said...

I'm really curious to see how Amy's accent will turn out with me being German and her daddy being a true Bristolian - that might make one interesting mix :D