by Patricia Pou Jové
Editor’s Note: We’re excited to introduce Patricia Pou Jové as our new columnist. Patricia will be contributing pieces to our First Person section on a regular basis.
Sometimes, I purposely exaggerate my natural accent in English.
Actually, exaggerate is far from the correct word. I let it loose, I free it from the constraints of my almost-perfect pronunciation. I shed the unnecessary vowel sounds until I reach my perfect Spanish five. I let my r’s reclaim their rightful space at the front of my mouth.
Most of the time, I’m tired of the strain of trying to sound like a native Anglophone. I can do it, and I can do it relatively easily. But I feel my senses heighten. My ideas jumble up in attempting exact and eloquent translation. One verbal slip and some sort of illusion of fluency is broken—it’s not about trying to pass off as just another native English speaker, it’s about proving I can beat them at their own game. But in the usually-liberal and not-outwardly-xenophobic spaces I frequent, winning this game usually amounts to little more than gratuitous self-congratulation: look how good I am at English.
And sometimes I unleash my accent into the open just so it can drag my national identity along with it. I let my accent shine to brighten up who I am and what I want to be perceived as. I deliberately mispronounce (xenophobia-permitting!) because I want people to know that I am foreign, different, Puerto Rican, Latin American, ¡hispanoparlante! I want gring@s to know I’m different and proud of it, I want fellow foreigners to see our common ground without the words “Puerto Rico” ever leaving my lips.
I want to be free from the anonymity of perfect pronunciation.
Author Info: Patricia Pou Jové is a Senior at Columbia College studying History, Education Studies, and The Science of Being the “Exotic” One. She’s a woman from San Juan, Puerto Rico and can sense when you mispronounce her name. She tweets at @ppoujove, writes mostly in English at thecosmotropics.wordpress.com, and mostly in Spanish at latinoamerriquena.wordpress.com.