Erase or Embrace the Accent?

When I made the “Shit Salvadorans Say” videos, I never once worried while filming that my accent would be so gringo as to be a distraction – but apparently some thought it was.

Initial response to the videos was overwhelmingly positive and I was happy to have made people laugh – but then came the first negative comment about my accent, which, more than hurting my feelings, kind of left me dumbfounded.

“That lady doesn’t even sound like she’s Salvadorian, that’s the funny part,” read the YouTube comment.

I responded that I don’t sound Salvadoran because I’m a gringa. (I refrained from typing “duh” at the end of that response.) I chalked it up to one person obviously having a bad day and taking it out on me, however before I could shake it off and move on, more comments came in.

“Y’all don’t got the accent.”

(At least I “got” good grammar I retorted in my head.)

“I think the gringa was right on the money in what to say, but I can’t get passed the whole gringa accent,” said another.

Nice. A back-handed compliment. And then…

“The accent isn’t there.”

“Lo siento esto es una gringada! Cero Salvadoreño!”

“OMG! I’m Salvadorian and this is NOT how my family or I talk lol what part of El Salvador are you from?”

“She sounds white lol maybe she’s first generation American and didn’t learn Spanish well lol.”

“Sorry y’all sound too gringo.”

Every time I’d get an E-mail notification that a comment had been left, my heart would start to race – will it be a positive comment, (for there were an equal amount of people who loved the videos) – or a negative comment? Will it be more of the same or will they find something even crueler to say that will crush me? I finally decided to disallow comments on those YouTube videos because I started to obsess.

Now, YouTube comments are famously horrendous, and I’ve kept that in mind, but I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t made me self-conscious about my accent. I’ve been studying Spanish for twenty years now and I’m still not fluent. I make grammatical mistakes all the time, but my accent is one thing I thought I had conquered.

Although I knew I didn’t sound “Salvadoran” and that I wouldn’t be mistaken for a native speaker of any Latin American country for that matter, I never worried that I sounded “white” or “gringa” — at least not in recent years.

“You told me I don’t have an accent!” I said to Carlos after receiving yet another Youtube comment, and Carlos insisted very sincerely that I don’t. Perhaps he’s blinded by love, but then I think back on all the people over the years who have so enthusiastically complimented my Spanish – did they just mean it was good compared to other gringos?

“Wow! Your Spanish is so good!” I’ve been told in both Spanish and English – but what is “good” Spanish? Does the fact that I can do more than ask where el baño is make me a success?

Do I speak better than the white “abogados” and used car dealers on local Spanish-language channels whose mispronunciations make me cringe? Better than college girls who go to Cancun on Spring break and get drunk while wearing over-sized sombreros? Better than Dora the Explorer or Erik Estrada? What standard have I surpassed exactly?

As I read Roque Dalton poems aloud to Carlos in bed last night, asking him to rate my accent on a scale of one to ten, he asked me why I continue to sweat it. “Your accent is cute,” he said, taking the book from my hands and pulling me to him. I eyed him suspiciously, for “cute” is very different from “fluent” or “beautiful” or even “good.” A puppy chasing its tail is cute. A baby babbling gibberish is cute.

“Your accent is perfect,” he amended, and I noted his accent in English, the one I love so much, the one he makes no attempt to refine but which causes misunderstandings for him at fast food drive-thrus.

In the end, I realize, I have a decision to make. I can continue to try to erase my accent or I can embrace it. I’m not sure yet which way I’ll go.

What is your experience with having an accent? What is your native language? What is your second language? How do native speakers of your second language react to your accent? Do you embrace your accent or try to erase it?

Posted on January 23, 2012, in blogging, Language, Salvadoreños and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 70 Comments.

  1. I understand. People tell me that my accent is great all the time but my mom says it is not. When I tell her that other people say it is she says it is because their spanish isn’t good either. High bar, no? I’ve learned to embrace it. I didn’t grow up in Mexico. I will never sound like someone who did no matter how hard I try. What is important to me is that I am able to communicate with a person in Spanish. If I don’t sound like a native, that’s ok. I hope you are able to come to some peace with either decision soon. P.S. My Salvadoran friends posted your video on their facebook page. They loved it and never mentioned your accent. They said it was “spot on” and posted a photo of their dad weighing a suitcase.

    • You definitely sound like you’re very much at peace with your accent — that’s where I want to be, regardless of whether I choose to work on refining it – I want to be comfortable and not self-conscious in the meantime.

      Thanks for sharing the video on Facebook and for telling me that your friends enjoyed it. I believe you that one of them had a photo of their father weighing a suitcase. LOL. That’s the scene at our house the weeks leading up to a trip back.

  2. I think you should not be ashamed of your accent. I don’t believe there is any way to get rid of it. Carlos still has his after so many years here in the USA and so does my husband. They probably expected you to have no “gringa” accent because you do look Hispanic but don’t let it get you down. Most people are just happy you are able to speak their language. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela

    • I look Hispanic? LOL – Now this adds an interesting dimension! Most people tell me I look very gringa, although I’ve had a few Salvadorans tell me I look “EXACTLY like someone” they know from El Salvador. Who knows!

      Love that Nelson Mandela quote. One of my very favorites.

  3. Laughter always alleviates some of the tension associated with sensitive topics such as accents. I had to laugh at the “Taco Hell” blog post where the native Spanish speaker had to mispronounce Spanish while ordering fake Mexican food from gringos! Many thanks to you and Carlos for warning us all not to eat there.

    People are always going to judge us as being “not enough” or “too much.” You are at least making the effort to master Spanish and to learn about the deep culture but some malcontent will always say you’re “not fluent enough.” I have been mistaken for Italian or Brazilian. A coworker once jokingly told me, “It’s better to have an Italian accent than a gringo accent” but I took that remark with a grain of salt.

    If anything, my Spanish is a weird mixture of Castilian (minus the characteristic “th” sound for “z” and soft “c”) and Dominican Spanish. I have what is known as a “neutral” accent that is hard to place, but I have been called “too much” when I attempt to tutor Spanish. A student once said I had “too much of a Spanish accent” and said she understood her (you guessed it, gringo) professor better than she understood me.

    While watching CNN en Español, I heard a newscaster named Al Goodman reporting from Madrid, Spain. He had a bit of an accent, but nothing that detracted from the message he was delivering.

  4. I totally get this. I too get compliments about my Spanish both in English and Spanish, but I know I’m far from perfect, I make mistakes, and I will never ever sound native. I’m half Mexican, but was raised in an English only environment (because that was encouraged in the 70s) and didn’t learn Spanish until I was an adult.

    I too have wondered if I get compliments because I can say more than basic greetings. But oh well, at least I can speak Spanish and can communicate in two languages. And I’m happy with that, and will continue learning and improving my Spanish.

    I thought your video was very cute! And I don’t think you should feel bad about your accent. Your pronunciation is spot on.

  5. Kimberli Canales

    I guess embrace? I speak spanish very well, but I’ve always accepted that I will speak with an accent. Immigrated Latinos will always speak English with an accent. Shoot, I’m a new yorker now living in Ohio and all these people have accents. Lol. Its just what is. As for the reaction to me speaking Spanish, my husbands family has always been grateful that I make the effort a comunicar con ellos. Even when I spoke it horribly. So we don’t have to play charades. Now if I can only convince them that learning English is helpful…

    • Kimberli – you bring up a hilarious point — there were people who complimented me way back when I knew I spoke horribly too, (mostly my husband’s family.) … I guess it’s subjective ;)

  6. I am very self conscious about my accent. I learned English at the age of thirteen, and like you, have been told both: “you speak like a native” and “what’s that accent”… Sometimes I find myself repeating what I want to say in my head making sure I say it the “right way”. I do not way but I’m afraid someone is not going to understand me or get distracted by “my accent”. Whenever I see someone with an accent speak with confidence I get a bit jealous and promise myself I will embrace mine as well. :) I feel like that episode of Sesame St. where Rosita thinks they’re making fun of her accent, and then realizes that having an accent means you speak more than one language… and not everybody is able to do that! ;)

  7. Ok many fun experiences with accents. First of all my wife is from New Zealand and I am from the US. I have not heard my wife’s accent in years. My kids notice it, (not as much now that we live in NZ) and I notice her parents accent, but not hers. Something odd about that isn’t it?

    The next experience comes from being in Thailand. I was there as a missionary and sometimes we would be paired up with another farang(like Gringo in Thai) and sometimes it was another Thai. Since there were more Farang missionaries than Thai ones, we would mess up the accent of the Thai missionaries to the point that other Thai’s would ask them what country they were from?!? Their Thai was perfect, they spoke at much high levels and much more idiomatic and colloquial then us farangs, but they still got the question.

    So here is the long explanation to say don’t sweat the accent. It changes regularly anyway. My friend from the south lost his southern accent living in california. I say embrace it!

    • Jarvis, I sometimes am unaware of my husband’s accent too.

      That’s really fascinating how the “farang” missionaries managed to cause the native speakers to sound less fluent in their own language just by spending so much time together. I think my husband has experienced some loss of his accent in Spanish as well, being here in the United States. He doesn’t sound American but most people can’t guess he’s Salvadoran right away just based on his speech.

      Thanks for the comment!

  8. I love accents. They’re like a person’s fingerprint. Having said that, since adolescence, I’ve been self-conscious speaking Spanish for fear I sounded funny. English has been my dominant language for 37 years and my Spanish is that of a six year old. So anybody who can conjugate and engage in complex conversation speaks excellent Spanish as far as I’m concerned.

    Your accent is what makes you uniquely “you” and, yes, your Spanish is excellent. You have the heart that backs it, Tracey. That’s what make you authentic. Un abrazote.

    • Ezzy – I absolutely adore accents too, so it’s a little weird that I would so much desire to be rid of mine, right? … I can’t make sense of it. LOL. Maybe it’s because Americans speaking Spanish aren’t known as having a beautiful or interesting accent – it’s only considered “funny”, “ugly” or at the best, “cute.”

      Thanks for your sweet words. Abrazos!

  9. EMBRACE IT!!!!!!!! Amiga, ME EXTRAñA que te inmutes ante comentarios asi! Para quitarte el acento tienes que ir a clases o estar rodeada constantemente de personas que hablen español y un español más neutral (por ello me refiero a español que no tenga tan fuerte acento como muchas veces escuchamos el mexicano, cubano, argentino).
    Tu eres gringa y gringa te quedarás; una gringa que ama la cultura latina pero gringita al fin! Los que te conocemos y hemos llegado a tenerte cariño comprendemos y disfrutamos tu trabajo y tu esfuerzo. Manda por un tubo esos comentarios o por lo menos que no te afecten!
    A mi me han preguntado (por mi acento) que si soy rusa, armenian, española y a todos les digo que si! Yo soy de todo el mundo!!!
    Besitos!

    • Soy gringa y gringa me quedo – tienes mucha razón.

      Te quiero, amiga. Gracias por tu comentario tan cariñoso. Besos!

  10. Those mean comments are definitely not worth reading and I don’t know why people waste their time leaving them just to hurt other people’s feelings.
    Those who know you, love you and the way you speak, and that’s what is most important! I think you speak Spanish wonderfully, but who am I to say? And who are those commenters to say either?

    • Susan, I can’t really understand why the internet has become such a haven for bullying, negativity and insulting others either – YouTube and other comment threads seem to be where you find it most… I’ve even started to avoid reading comments on news articles on reputable websites because people are just horribly mean that it brings me down even when it has nothing to do with me.

      Thanks for the comment, amiga.

  11. Embrace it. People are asses. Especially on the YouTube.

    I remember when I was 12 and we moved from the east coast to the west coast and everyone bugged me about my accent. I was in Junior High, so they bugged me about a lot of different things. I just acted like it didn’t bother me and eventually it stopped. The second someone knows they have your number, they start crank calling…never let ‘em see you sweat.

    :D

  12. I feel you. I have “impressed” so many and have been complimented almost daily for so many years, that when I’m called out on my accent, keeping humble (and the wtf look off my face) is hard. I was recently told “You have the cutest accent! Keep trying you’re almost there!” Bleh! Oh well. I’m NOT a native and I’m okay with that. We are super anyway, haha!!

  13. I will be honest, the first thing I noticed was that you still had a little bit of “gringa” accent. I didn’t post a comment because it was unnecessary. Now, what kind of “accent” do you want to achieve. Let’s start with that. I say this because every country in the islands, Central, South America, and Spain has one.

    Now, I am salvadoran(lived there 18 years) and I can tell you the accent in El Salvador is pretty bad. But that depends what part of El Salvador you are from. I have been in the US for so many years(13) now that old friends who have visited from El Salvador have told me that I no longer sound like a salvadoran when I speak spanish. LOL.

    What I would like to know is what you really mean by “erase” the accent? I mean you will have to substitute that with something else. Now, if you can engaged in full conversations(and you do), your spanish is excellent and should not be a concern. Anyway, I hope I didn’t say anything bad, but I honestly think that your accent is fine.

    • Marlon – LOL, no you didn’t say anything bad.

      I don’t know what kind of accent I want, if I want one at all. For a long time I loved northern Mexican accents and the Salvadoran accent equally. Then I also liked Argentinian accents for awhile — in the end, I realized it was kind of silly to expect to acquire any of these but I thought I had a “neutral” or “standard” Spanish accent, (like what is used for TV noticias on Primer Impacto for example.) … I knew it wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t think anyone would so easily be able to say without a doubt that I’m a “gringa” or white/Anglo/American.

      Maybe I will have to make a video speaking somewhat at length, and/or reading so that you and others can tell me on exactly which words it becomes clear, or what exactly I’m doing that tips you off.

      By “erase” my accent, I simply mean that I would continue to try to improve and refine my accent so that it isn’t easily recognized as being American – so that it isn’t distracting.

      Whether I choose to consciously work on my accent or not, I will always try to improve my Spanish grammar and vocabulary. That’s a life long path and passion.

      Thanks for your feedback!

  14. As a fellow gringa latina (well, grina española in my case), I 100% understand your situation and feelings. I am not sure if this was the case with the accent-hating commenter, but in my experience Spaniards actually think my accent is pretty convincing (minus my lack of ability to roll my r’s), and even my primarily Mexican coworkers kind of like my accent. It’s fellow gringos who really, really tear into me (in most cases, they can’t identify a Castilian accent unless you’re making it rain with the lisp). It happened again to me over Christmas and the comment was hurtful, so I know what you mean. It really hurts. Don’t pay too much attention to the nit-picky trolls on YouTube, Tracy!!

    • Thanks, Alex. I guess it’s easy to take it personal because it’s something we feel passionately about and have worked hard on… The thing I keep reminding myself of is that there have been far more positive comments than negative. I wonder why humans are so quick to forget compliments but insults are difficult to shake off.

      Anyway, it’s been a good exercise in growing a thicker skin. Always much needed for me :)

  15. ayyyy forget about what people say! I get compliments from my mexican relatives that I speak great spanish but they still laugh at my mistakes and call me pocha! our first language is english and so that is how we speak….for the record I think you sound like an american born latina not a gringa :) but my opinion doesn’t matter…just be yourself in whatever language…..do you remember the scene in the movie Selena? her dad is telling her that we will never fit in because we have to be more mexican than the mexicans (or salvadorans) and more american than the americans! ni modo! que se vayan a la fregada todos is what I say!!!

  16. I’m from Long Island and have a very thick, almost Jersey-like accent. When I got my first waitressing job in Georgia I can remember being in a rush and running into the kitchen screaming “where’s the buttah?” Of course everyone looked at me like I was crazy and I had to slow down and slowly repeat “where’s the buttER?”
    I think the video was dead on and really captured the “Salvadoran” lingo. Accents vary even from one latino country to another and sometimes even region to region. We have a few customers that frequent our tienda that neither I nor my husband can understand due to a heavy accent.
    Ignore the haters and keep doing what you do so well. Most likely they are just celoso because you have mastered a second language while they are still struggling with one.

    • Love the “buttah” story. LOL.

      That’s fascinating that even your husband has a hard time understanding the heavy accent of some of your tienda customers.

      Thanks for your reassurances!

  17. I liked the part about being told your Spanish is very good — good against what standard? Whenever I get told this by native Spanish-speakers, I wonder like you did — is that “good because I can do more than ask for the bathroom”, or actually GOOD? As much as I’d love to speak perfectly, I’m sure I have a small American accent (especially on certain words, and especially if I’m flustered or uncomfortable or trying to do something difficult with grammar!) and I figure I always will — although there’s certainly no harm in trying to erase it as much as possible! Everyone has some kind of accent, whether they’re speaking their first or second language, so nobody should really complain! Besides, a “native-like” accent is certainly an achievement in itself — you will never BE a native speaker because you can’t be, by definition!

  18. Hola Tracey,
    No mater how hard you try try, you can’t please everyone except yourself.
    You are doing a great job!
    muchas gracias
    gringo de norte america

  19. First, I just wanted to say I completely understand where you’re coming from. Learning and “perfecting” a second (or even first!) language is tough, sometimes impossible. It takes a lot of time and effort. As a Spanish major in undergrad and now getting my Master’s in linguistics, I’ve learned a whole lot of about the precise sounds and the phonetics of Spanish. Because of this, I also don’t think I have a typical “gringa” accent (at least I hope!). I have lived and traveled to several Spanish-speaking countries and have fooled people into thinking I was a native speaker (although almost never from the specific country or region where I was). However, every once in a while, I get spotted from the get-go, and I feel a little insulted. When my friends (or strangers, or worse, my suegra!) correct me, I take it personally. Whenever I get a reaction slightly less than “wow I didn’t even know Spanish wasn’t your first language”, I get upset (which is kind of ridiculous considering: 1. I know I sometimes make grammar mistakes or don’t know a word, and 2: well, it’s not my first language!). All this seems silly when you think about it, considering everyone has an “accent”, in any language, and it serves as a type of fingerprint. However, I think where I struggle is that sometimes it goes deeper to an identity issue, where I don’t want to be pegged as a gringa (or have the negative stereotypes associated with me), especially living in Puerto Rico, where I wish I could blend in as much as possible. I also get the same reaction from my boyfriend (who is Puerto Rican), which makes me feel like he’s not being 100% honest in his evaluation. However, I do know there are times that I make a mistake or a word comes out funny (and I know it), and I can laugh at myself.

    Second, I’ll let you evaluate how qualified I am to make this statement considering I’m not a native speaker… however, as a language teacher and as a grad student aspiring for my PhD in linguistics, I can most definitely say your Spanish (I went back and watched other videos too), particularly in terms of your pronunciation, is not your typical gringo accent. Your pronunciation sounds like a mix of Mexican/Central American. I mean no offense by this, but I actually noticed your sons having more of an English accent than you! (I don’t mean to insult you or your children by saying this, I mean it as a compliment to your language abilities!) So definitely be proud of what you’ve accomplished, and keep in mind people are jealous, and people have too much time on their hands to sit around and troll YouTube. I say be proud of what you’ve accomplished, and “que se jodan” los naysayers :) And obviously you can communicate at an advanced and professional level in the language, enough to teach it to others, which is a true testament to your skills!

    You’ve inspired me to make a Sh*t Puerto Ricans Say video, I think it would be hilarious haha Let’s see if I can round some people up! (Ok, this comment was super long and rambling, but I hope it made sense!)

    • Ashlee – Wow! This was like getting a hand written letter by mail rather than a blog comment :)

      Thanks so much for taking the time to review some of my videos and assess my accent. I can’t tell you how much better your comment makes me feel.

      “Que se jodan los naysayers” — jajajajajajaja! OMG, I want a shirt with that written on it. I think I will write that on a scrap of paper and put it here on my bulletin board.

      No offense whatsoever taken on anything you said, including about my childrens’ accents. I’m super aware of their accents and everything you said made me feel like I actually have a good grasp of reality because I was nodding in agreement at everything you wrote here. Many of these were things I had already recognized but it feels good to have someone with an actual degree in linguistics reaffirm it. I feel good going forward that I can trust my instincts on what I need to work on and what my children need to work on because we’re very much on the same page.

      If you make a Shit Puerto Ricans Say video, come on by here and leave me the link. I have a few friends that would love to see it.

      Thanks again, amiga.

      • No problem! I felt like I really related to your post, it’s good to know I’m not alone! Another thing that occurred to me is that people are not looking for not just “Shit Salvadorans Say” but “How Salvadorans Say It”, i.e. a super exaggerated Salvadoran accent, pronunciation, intonation, etc. Because Spanish is our second language, and it’s spoken in soooo many places, it’s difficult (better yet, impossible) to pick one Spanish accent and stick with it; there are just too many influences. Additionally, imitating someone else’s accent to a “T” is very difficult to do (going back to what I said about accents being like fingerprints), especially if you haven’t lived an extended time period in the area whose accent you wish to imitate. For example, I’ve seen some terrible British impersonations of US accents and vice versa! Even though it’s all “English”, you know it’s not “your” accent. When I lived in Spain, people asked me if I was Cuban or Puerto Rican, however in Puerto Rico, everyone thinks I’m from Spain. It’s all so subjective!!

        And I think I’ll make that “que se jodan los naysayers” stick too jiji

  20. I luv accents =) I thought you sounded just fine in the video. YouTube should have a feature where we can disable the notifications for just one video.

  21. Good morning Tracy.

    Let me tell you that I loved your videos “Shit Salvadorian Say” and I also share them in my friends FB pages (Still waiting for comments on it). I admit I was put off by some “gringadas” you comitted, but I understand that you are not a native speaker and overall you really nailed what an average salvadorian will say. For those who say that is not true, they should remember that not everywhere in El Salvador the language and nuissances of it are uniform, it varies depending of the region, demographics, et….

    Now, let me reinforce what many here have advised you to do: do what you feel right and forget about the others; if youd ecide to erase the accent, do it because you want to, not to please anybody else. I have tried to live by that rule and it has always turned for be the best.

    I have have a similar problem with the accent but in the reverse because english is not my first language. Once,one of my mentors took me aside and told me that my students were complaining that they couldn’t understand me in my classroom because of my accent (Funny that asian will complain about someone’s accect). He went on to teel me “You do not have to loose your accent, that is what makes you you, just make sure you speak slowl and clear, and ask if everything is understood”. I took his advise and haven’t let me bother if someone comments on it. I just smile and show how proud I am of it; sometimes to the point of abuse it, just for kicks.

    I will not lie and tell you that everything is peachy, and everyone accepts me and understand me or supports me, there is always people who feel offended when I misspronounce or have requested to talk to someone else because they do not want to deal with “someon who doesn’t know how to speak english”. I just take it in stride and move on. Last incident was when someone called my office asking if we have called requesting some service…I have to ask him to repeat himself 3 times ’cause I couldn’t understand his thick “redneck” accent…he got agravated and said “it is there someone who understands english” to which I replied “I do understand and speak english, I just cannot understand what you are saying”.

    My two daughters are native speakers and you would not think they are hispanics b listening to them, but when it comes to speak spanish, they sound horrible, even if they are clear in their sentences; but hey, as my gringo husband says “You speak better english than my spanish”.

    Keep your passion and don’t let them bring you down…I bet your husband will agree with me in saying “Mandalos a comer mierd*”.

    • Janneth, thanks so much for this comment. It means a lot to me that you shared your honest thoughts while being compassionate and also telling me your own story.

      “Mandalos a comer mierd*” < LOL! :)

  22. Tracy, I just wanted to tell you that any time I have seen a video of you speaking, rapping, reading in Spanish I am SUPER IMPRESSED! You sound like a native speaker to me! I am in no position to talk about accents because my accent when speaking Spanish is OFF THE CHARTS. I never heard a gringa accent when you speak. Maybe it is because I’m a gringa myself. Who knows. Just know that accent or no accent, you my dear speak WONDERFULLY and I wish I spoke half as good as you! I think sometimes people like to leave negative comments out of jealousy as crazy as that sounds. Embrace the accent (if it is even there.)
    <3

  23. I get told I sound “too white” all the time (in English). I guess we cant please everyone. I thought your videos were funny. It was “Shit Salvadorans Say” not “how the fuck Salvadorans sound” haha excuse my indio lol

    Anyways lady Im not going to BS you and tell you there isnt a little gringa accent there but hablas, escribes, lees muy bien nuestro idioma. Algo que aun muchos de nosotros no lo hacemos bien. ;) Thanks for entertaining us and sharing your experiences!

    • It was “Shit Salvadorans Say” not “how the fuck Salvadorans sound” …. ROFLMAO! Oh man, I’ll have to remember that one next time someone says something!

      Thanks, Yanet :)

  24. I am Latina with a Canadian accent, it’s funny when I visit family back home they think I’m trying to show off that I was raised in Canada, but I’m really just trying my best. I’m comfortable with my own version of Spanish, it’s unique!

  25. Definitely embrace it. Although I say that as a gringa who has a pretty good Mexican accent and is super proud of it. But it was never something I really worked at. And I love other people’s accents when they speak English.

  26. Someone once told me I have an accent like I am from northern Mexico, whatever that means, I thought and said “I am from Texas! So you are kind of right!” What he was trying to tell me was…you sound like a REDNECK! A close friend…he could get away with that.
    I love accents…I don’t care who or what they are or what they sound like. Kudos to you for your sense of humor and embracing who you are. Ignore those critics. Is there a way to turn that off? Ugh :P
    PS I have been working really hard on that accent. I had to, I’m a teacher ;) It’s much better now, at least that’s what my kids say ;) But I’m sure it’s still easy to pick me out as a gringa!

  27. People in Mexico always tell me I sound so Tejana when I speak spanish, well, because I am! Even though I am mexi-americana, I’ll always sound a little texan. I think that trying to “erase” your accent is unnecessary. Be proud of what you are, and the fact that you have worked so very hard to speak and read and write spanish. Your accent reflects where ou came from, and that is okay.

    also, you sound fantastic. don’t sweat the haters….

  28. As a gringa living in Argentina, I feel pretty happy when Mexicans in the US think I’m actually Argentine. I think the use of ‘vos’ and the sound of my ‘ll’ and ‘y’ just throws them for a loop, kind of like when you meet a Chinese guy with a British accent.

    Anyway I’m sure both our accents are quite okay. Have you ever heard George W. Bush speak? Now that is a gringo accent!

  29. Tracy, los latinos tenemos diferentes acentos dependiendo de nuestros paises de origen. Sinceramente si no dices que eres gringa yo ni lo hubiera notado. Quizas no tienes acento Salvadoreno pero tu espanol es muy bueno. Yo soy Peruana y vivo en the US y bueno as you can understand I have a very strong accent that everybody notice when I speak in english. This is really uncomfortable because sometimes I feel weird but what can I do? By the way, suele suceder que otros latinos aveces no saben de donde soy por que simplemente no reconocen mi acento peruano, saben que soy latina pero no saben de que pais, so don’t feel bad you are fine I really think your spanish is great you have learned our language very well. Very impressive.

    • Gracias, Patricia. Since writing that post I haven’t felt that insecure again about my Spanish – I still have days or moments when I wonder if I speak well enough and become frustrated but it passes quickly when I remember the comments from people like you. Abrazos!

  30. I also cringe when I see those commercials on tv with some lawyer “speaking” Spanish and wonder if I sound like that. Yes, it’s happened often enough, actual Mexican clients who had only talked with me over the phone say when they meet me that they had thought this whole time I was Mexican. After a few years of this I started the habit of mentioning somehow casually in conversation that I’m not Mexican because I would just be so nervous about it. I’m not an overly diplomatic person and it’s not a question of if, but when, that I will need people to forgive me because I inadvertently said something horrible. With my in-laws at least they do know me for several years and dare I say love me warts and all. But with strangers you don’t have a background of them knowing you personally, and working against you is unfortunately an undercurrent of racism and discrimination that people have experienced. It is almost more dangerous that I do speak the language well, because when I speak people don’t tend to chalk it up to “oh she just doesn’t know” that I said something accidentally offensive. No matter how hard you try, it’s a lot more complicated to learn all the ins and outs of someone’s culture than their language. I think when I am 80+ years old I will probably be living in Mexico and still be having people on a regular basis either looking at me weird in a not-good way or hopefully (!!!!) just giggling at me constantly.

  31. The few times when someone says my accent sounds slightly American, I just shrug it off because usually I am mistaken for Latina when I speak in Spanish, especially in areas like Miami where there are Latinos from all different countries with different accents. I remember one time when I was at the airport and the guy from curbside asked if I wanted my bags checked and I said “Aja” and then he started speaking to me in Spanish and was like, “Sabia que eras latina porque dijiste “aja” y los americanos dicen “yes”” and he just kept going on and on, hahaha! I am also mistaken as Latina by gringos, I remember one gringo viejo that said to me in his broken Spanish “Usted muy bella latina. Como se llama?” LOL. You should go to Miami! Everyone will think you’re Latina because of context! And your accent in Spanish is great! I don’t think you sound gringa, personally. You sound Central American to me. It is frustrating when people say that, though. Maybe I am weird, but one of my proudest accomplishments was when I was in Spain and I spoke to people in Spanish, NOT ONE person guessed I was American. I got Mexican, Argentinian, Uruguayan, Colombian, French, Romanian, Russian, and English. Usually they thought Mexican (which was strange because although there may be Mexican influences in my accent since I have a mixed South American accent, I don’t tend to use a lot of Mexican vocab aside from “pues” maybe, but usually people guess something that they don’t know that well when they can’t recognize it).

    I don’t know if maybe you can empathize, but the other week I ordered agua de coco in Spanish from a Spanish-speaking vendor (everyone was speaking in Spanish to her there), and some desconocido comes up to me and says “Hablas bien el espanol.” I said “Gracias” but I was kind of molesta. I mean, I’m sure he had good intentions, but I found it a bit presumido. Like just because I’m white, I can’t be Latina? I’ve actually heard this from white Latinas that live in communities with darker-skinned Latinos and get told things like “Donde aprendiste espanol?” all the time…that must be even more frustrating…anyhow, my parents told me I should just respond, “Gracias, tu tambien. Donde aprendiste el espanol?” LOL!

    Anyhow, stories aside, I think the most important thing is to be able to communicate in a language. It doesn’t matter if you have an “accent”, as long as you are understandable and able to communicate. One of my best friends has a fairly “gringa” accent when she speaks Spanish, but accent aside, she speaks very well and has better grammar and vocabulary than most native speakers, and she never has to hesitate to think of a word or phrase. It bothers me when we go out together and people tell her she should practice her Spanish more so she can be as good as me, because in my opinion, she speaks very well and everyone understands her. Having an accent is also not a sign of lower intelligence or effort, some people just have an ear for accents and others don’t, and for some people who start learning a language when they are older it is actually a physiological thing–they can’t relearn how to move their mouth to make the new sounds that don’t exist in their mother tongue. Also, your accent is what makes you unique! :)

    • Hola Christina! … I’ve been to Miami a couple times and people did speak Spanish to me much more readily, (and someone told me I sound Mexican. LOL.)

      I like your parents idea for a snappy response when someone asks where you learned Spanish. I know they don’t mean anything by it – it’s a compliment usually, but it irks me too LOL.

  32. Hi Traci,

    I know that this post is an old one, but I was just introduced to your blog last night by a friend.

    First, let me just say that I watched your video and it made me smile. My mother is from Honduras and she says “puchica” (I’m typing that as it sounds, so forgive me if the spelling is wrong) ALL the time and I always thought that was just a Honduran thing – now I know it’s a Central American thing!

    Second, your accent is *fine*. I’m sure I have an accent too when I speak Spanish and I can tell you that you speak it way better than I do. I have just four years of basic Spanish that I learned in school and a little bit from my mother (she didn’t speak to us in Spanish when we were kids, something she regrets now). Please don’t let those people get to you. Most of them seem to have an IQ of ten. My mom would call them bobos or dummy-tilas. (This is a word she used to say and I never knew it if it was actual Spanish or if she was combining words or what)

    Love your blog and I am going to continue reading it. ¡Gracias!

    • Thanks so much for this comment, Michelle. Bienvenida and thanks to your friend for the introduction :)

      I love comments on old posts – no problem!

      It’s funny because for many years I thought “puchica” and some other words were only Salvadoran – but yes, other Central Americans share some of the same slang.

      Thanks for your kind words and your support. I like “dummy-tilas” jajaja, never heard it before. Maybe your mother made it up!

  33. tracy, even el salvadoran….don’t sound like they are from el salvador…..mira que cuando yo hablo español o en el trabajo hablo español….me pregunta de donde soy……los salvadoreños tenemos diferentes acentos en si…..nada mas si vos hablas asi…informal….entonces facilmente te ‘descubren’ que podes ser salvadoreños….tambien consiste en el ‘caliche’ ……tambien…consiste en si uno vive alrededor de una gran comunidad latina…..salvodoreña o centro americana……ya que tambien adoptamos ciertas palabras de otros paises latino-americanos ……de centro america somos uno de 3 paises que “vosean” los otros dos son guatemala y costa rica ……tambien depende de la educacion de la familia salvadoreña ……. muchos factores cuentan en los comentarios que te dejan de critica negative por youtube…pero tenes que entender ….el salvadoreño …es orgulloso …hasta de como hablas ‘el español’ como un salvadoreño….se agradece la intencion….pero….asi somos…….ahora…..si ..en youtube hay comentarios mas ofensivos…y a esos……es mejor dejarle la ‘spam flag’ para ponerlos en su lugar …como diria mi tio…with those comments…all you have to do is…..dust your shoulder off…..no es de importancia…si no te hace crecer como persona…y nada mas lo dejan por ser o pasarce de vivos…..susana

  34. The accent thing is tricky. I never want to be pegged as a gringa because of all of the negative stereotypes and because people instantly treat you differently. I don’t really know what my accent is in Spanish and have been told in Costa Rica that I have the no-accent accent meaning it’s not really from anywhere in particular. Another person in Colombia told me my accent was a mix and so were my words (so true … I learned it in Nicaragua, but lived in Peru and Colombia and listen to and watch radio shows and t.v. shows across the board in Spanish). I’ve been asked if I’m Argentinian, but only by non-Argentinians or been told that I’m French or Italian. Usually they peg me for French. Who knows why because I look German (German-American and my grandmother spent lots of time talking to me in German). So, I say, keep learning, keep studying and keep practicing.

    I also want to say that I read a similar piece from another gringo who is living in Puerto Rico about people complementing him on his Spanish when he was first learning it and then not saying a word about it as he got more advanced. He also said that the longer he and his wife live in Puerto Rico, the more complements he gets IN PUERTO RICO on how his Spanish is improving and the more critiques he gets from people in places like Argentina and Colombia who say that his Spanish is getting worse …. because he is picking up and using the Puerto Rican accent and words.

    Pues, no se puede ganar nunca en esta batalla de acentos. Habla como hablas y no te preocupes por lo que dicen los demás. Nadie tiene la respuesta definitiva al respecto. ¡Que se vayan a la mierda todos los que quieren criticarnos! Como si ellos no tengan acento ninguno en cualquier idioma que ellos hablan.

    Un abrazo fuerte de una hermana gringa.

  35. Really interesting article… I know my Spanish is nowhere near perfect, but I’m striving to get my accent to improve. I meet a lot of people who have studying soanish for years, and living in slanishsoeaking countries for years and to me- their accents sounds terrible! I so want to have a good accent, and not the “cute” or “sexy” bad accent that some people find endearing :(

  36. I sometimes get self-conscious about my accent around native-born Mexicans. Even though Spanish was my first language, the simple truth is that your academic language becomes your dominant language. I speak Mexican Spanish with an American accent. But, you know what, second-generation Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the American population. So, my accent will soon be a very prevalent accent. It means that I have kept both sides of my identity.

  37. I’m a Mexican native currently living in the U.S. Even though my english accent sucks my spanish is perfect maybe because I was raised in Mexico. I feel somehow alike with you because I’m half Mexican half Salvadorian, of course I know both accents pretty well. Don’t feel bad about negative people’s feedback on your accent. We’ll aren’t perfect, as you need to practice your spanish accent I need to practice my english as well. Hopefully one day we will be experts it just depends in the practice. Good luck!

  1. Pingback: Why Salma Hayek’s accent is sexy but the gringo accent isn’t « Latinaish.com

Note: You are not required to sign in to leave a comment. Please feel free to leave the email and/or website fields blank for an easier commenting experience.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 557 other followers

%d bloggers like this: