I saw recently on the news that famous Colombian Shakira was getting some flack for “forgetting her roots.” It turns out, Colombian fans overheard Shakira on the set of a music video speaking with a Spanish accent, rather than her native accent from Barranquilla, Colombia.
Here’s video of the interaction that had some people jumping to judgement.
At 35 seconds into the video you hear Shakira say, “¿Pueden ayudar, por favor?” and apparently some detected the accent there.
This isn’t a new accusation for Shakira, as years ago she was also accused of using an Argentinian accent.
So what’s the deal? Has Shakira forgotten her roots? Does she feel the Argentinian and Spanish accents are superior to her native Colombian accent? Is she being pretentious?
Not at all! What some people don’t realize is that being around people with an accent different than your own can have this effect on some people. It isn’t a coincidence that during the time Shakira seemed to have a bit of an Argentinian accent she was dating Argentine Antonio de la Rúa, and as everyone knows, she now shares her life in Barcelona with Spanish football star, Gerard Piqué.
Research has shown that humans unintentionally mirror each other, imitating gestures, body language, and accent. This is a way we subconsciously try to get people to like us, to build rapport, and to seem less threatening. Essentially we’re saying to the other person, I’m similar to you, I belong. You can see this taking place between humans as early as infancy. Ever seen a baby imitating facial expressions?
It’s also been found that people who are more empathetic tend to be more prone to the Chameleon Effect, so is it any wonder Shakira has this “problem”? Look at all the charity work she does, from her own Pies Descalzos Foundation which helps children living in poverty, to her benefit concerts which have served as fundraisers for numerous initiatives, and her role as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador – Shakira is definitely one empathetic individual.
If that’s not enough to change the minds of the skeptical, I’ll add my own personal anecdote. Yes, I have also experienced the Chameleon Effect. I still remember the year we went to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. Carlos and I had been married probably about five years at that point. I was speaking to my father and he looked at me kind of funny. When I finished talking he said, “You’re speaking with an accent.” That was the first time I become self-conscious of it, but he was right, I had picked up some of Carlos’s accent in English which made me sound vaguely like it wasn’t my own native language. To this day I catch myself sometimes, but who knows how often it happens because I’m just not even aware of it.
Has this ever happened to you? What is your own experience with the Chameleon Effect?