Why is it…

…that where English is spoken, a European accent is considered cute while an Asian accent is deemed annoying?

Maybe I’m wrong, but that seems to be the vibe I get from popular media. And being an Asian, I find it hard to stay neutral when hearing all that. Nope, no one’s said any thing nasty to my face. Yet. Although behind my back, it could be a different story. I have a slight accent which is not always discernible, and which changes a little depending on whom I’m talking to.

Anyway, back to the main question. I’d like to know, if it is purely acoustic — like how a baby’s laughter is obviously more pleasant to the ears than fingernails scratching on plaster. Or does it in fact stem from prejudicial roots which still perceive — albeit subconsciously — certain ethnic groups as lowlier than others? And as an accent is connected to a race, a voice attached to a face, how we hear someone is inevitably influenced by how we view them?



2 thoughts on “Why is it…

  1. I’ve got a mate who’s Korean by heritage but was born and raised in Canada. He speaks fluent Korean, yet when he talks to “real” Koreans, they always laugh. Before he told me this, I never thought of an Asian language being spoken fluently with a western accent!

    He doesn’t say they find it annoying – just funny/unusual.

    As for prejudices, over here we often end up with someone from Bangalore on the phone when we call to report a problem with our bank, broadband or whatever. That annoys me. Not because of the person on the end of the line per se, but the fact that companies are saving cash by taking jobs from people within the country where they’re needed.

    I’ve found the Indian call centre staff to be knowledgeable and polite, but often their accent is hard to get through. And that’s for me with a load of experience and a knack with them. I’d hate to be old Mrs Miggins trying to decipher it through her hearing aid.

    Asian accents aren’t annoying, in my opinion. In fairness, that can depend on the accent itself and how strong it is. But I’d not judge a person on it. I’ve spent too long in Asia for me to do that!

  2. Thanks Mosh, it’s nice to hear others’ opinions.

    Yes, I feel the same regarding the call centres in India & the Philippines, because of the same reason: big corporations cutting down on local labour cost and exploiting the cheaper alternative overseas. It angers me the same way hearing about clothing sweatshops and manufacturing factories.
    Others may argue that it’d help the economy of less developed countries. But well I don’t think so. Not that my opinion is qualified or highly valued, but to me, down the track it’s a no win situation.

    But I digressed.

    Back to the topic. So in your case, and mine, it’s an acoustic thing. Some sounds are more pleasant than others. The nature of certain native languages make some people talk like a machine gun firing off. While others sound like a soft breeze. I find all those amusing, not annoying; and often like to draw parallels between the way someone speaks English and their original language.

    That, plus the fact that we’re more comfortable with the sound we’re more used to. So leave me to talk to someone with a strong Scottish or Irish brogue and they might as well be speaking Swahili. But outback Aussie drawl doesn’t faze me.

    Anyhow, you’ve been places, and so are more understanding and liberal. I guess when people are (or learn to be) open-minded (open-eared?), their prejudice would gradually diminish and disappear. Another reason why people should spend less on (oftentimes useless) branded stuff and save up to travel more.

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