“It was great! I had a great time in Deutschland!”
If something seems off about this conversation, that is a good thing. As you can tell, this conversation is in English, yet the word Deutschland is not. It’s German. Let’s try another one.
“How was your time abroad?”
“It was great! I had a great time in Perú!”
Just to clarify, the italics and accent above the “u” implies a strong Hispanic accent; imagine a heavy unpracticed tongue smacking the roof of your mouth for the “r” if you need a visual.
This conversation should seem just as off as the first one, because neither name for either country are in English, the language of the rest of the conversation. The thing is, is that we have words in English for these places.
Far too frequently I hear people using words that are heavily accented when they are, in fact, fully enrolled in the English language. Consider words such as taco, enchiladas, burritos, or almost any Hispanic country. These words don’t need an accent, because they are enrolled in English. I doubt that Stouffers Family Size Chicken Enchiladas was originally a native Hispanic product.
The usual time for someone to come down with the accentsies is any time after a somewhat prolonged trip to another country or culture. However, this does not exclude those who are more interested in another culture than their own. Also, this person is almost definitely American.
Why do we do this? Are we so self-conscious about other countries maybe disliking us that we have to over compensate with our care and interest in other countries? Or maybe it is because we as Americans are so concerned with being globally and culturally ignorant that when we gain any sort of cultural knowledge we just can’t wait to vomit it on those who are not so knowledgeable.
Another interesting phenomenon is the existence of “real” food. Such phenomenon can occur in the statement, “you haven’t lived until you’ve had real tacos from Mexico.” The REAL kind.
What makes this taco real as opposed to any other kind? Is there only one in the world and once it is eaten it is gone forever, thus leaving a perfect taco shaped hole in the world? Is it the ingredients in this taco? Because you can buy those at the grocery store, an international grocery store, or if need be, the Internet. Is it the fact that a Mexican person might make it? Because Mexican restaurants usually have Mexican people in the kitchen, yet these never seem to add up to the “real” deal. So what makes this unattainable, archetypal taco?
My bet would be because of a placebo effect. Put someone in a foreign culture with foreign sounds in the air, strange smells in the nose, taco in the hand, and bam! Real taco.
My biggest issue with the accentsies is that it is alienating. When someone bombards me after a two-month trip an attempt at a native accent, it pushes me away from the experience. Should I don this accent for our conversation for fear of looking ignorant? I want to know how the trip was for you, not how things should be pronounced or how their culture is so much better than it is in America.
Loving a culture or an experience is great, and so is sharing it with your loved ones. But however long you are abroad, I doubt that you will ever find that real taco.
-Landon Heavener, Contributing Writer