Minorities in America trying to sound "more white"

Chris   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 09:17 GMT
Have any of you ever noticed that when someone with very dark skin/and or very non-european features (I'm talking mostly middle eastern/Indian/African/Greek/etc) speaks good American or British English, people tend to think right away that they are "educated?" Why is speaking good English considered the hallmark of an educated minority? Don't use the same old explanations like "America has a lot of power/is the richest country/etc."

I feel like other languages are devalued all the time. It seems like anymore, to be "someone" in the world you're expected to learn English. I'm amazed that people from America (and maybe the UK-but I can't speak about that which I don't know) travel around the world and make NO EFFORT to learn the language of the country they are going to because they assume that they will run into at least one person who knows passable English.

And have any of you native English speakers who are not white/european noticed yourselves speaking to a white/european person (I'm addressing Americans primarily because again, I've never been to the UK) and almost unconsciously you start feeling like you have to enunciate more and sound "more white" even if your English is perfectly good to begin with?

I have the utmost confidence in my American English skills but yet I find myself trying to pull off an overblown accent kind of like what Christian Bale did in "American Psycho" when I talk to certain people, particularly rich, white people who are 40 or over. With college and high school kids, it's not a big deal because they are my peers and used to the many different physical manifestations of English speakers, though it seems like there is a certain age and class cut off where certain white/european Americans seem to separate themselves from English speaking minorities. Anyone agree with me on this?

BTW-It's funny that Bale's overblown American accent was being done by none other than a Brit! It's the same thing you see with Colin Farell, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Kate Beckinsale, Naomi Watts, etc....British, Irish and Australian actors shedding their accents for roles. What is so special about speaking like an American anyway? We have flat, boring voices!!!
Fly   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 18:02 GMT
that's an interesting observation.

I noticed that you didn't mention Asian people. Did you mean that they are not among english speaking minorities, or they don't have the same problem as stated?
Juan   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 22:58 GMT
Well, for starters Gringos are insular. They think the world begins in L.A and ends in N.Y. Of course I can't generalise, obviously this is not the case for every Gringo (ie. Clark) but mostly is true.
Juan   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 23:18 GMT
I'll give you an excellent example on WHY foreign english native speakers adopt an American accent. I've seen a couple of programs like Ripley's Believe or Not (World's Worst Drivers etc etc etc...) where they have footage from England or other English speaking countries. And you know what happens Chris?? They get subtitled!!!!???? The cheekiness of that is beyond belief. Personally,I just found it hilarious since the joke is not on me. I have no idea what these English speaking people think about this (being subtitled) and how they feel about it.

Also isn't it obvious Chris? American studios are not going to tolerate foreign accents unless its part of their script. So foreigners either learn the accent, get employed and put food on the table or remain jobless and go back to where they came from. Which one do you think they choose?
Juan   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 23:41 GMT
Why is speaking good English considered the hallmark of an educated minority? Don't use the same old explanations like "America has a lot of power/is the richest country/etc."

Whether you like it or not this is exaclty why I've learnt English. I can't speak for anyone else. Scientific and technological break-throughs are mostly done in the good old U.S of A. And guess in what language they are reported in? You've guessed it! English. Now if we go back in history and instead of English being adopted as the native tongue of the States and say that Dutch was adopted instead, just picture that and humour me for a few seconds. Then I'll bet my house and all my dough (which is not much anyway) that more likely than not, Dutch would be the so called "international" business language. Just my two cents worth. What I get tired of hearing is how Britannia in all its might and glory has influenced the world and MAKING THEM want to learn English. Only in their delusional little minds that is. Now don't get me wrong but I understand that they ruled waves and all that and that they had billion colonies and what not. True I'm not denying that, it is a fact you can't argue with facts. But there is a difference in learing English by duress (as these colonies were since they were conquered) and learning English by choice (for example me Juan). Just a few points to ponder.
Simon   Wednesday, November 12, 2003, 11:21 GMT
The reason why people think an African has been well educated if he or she speaks with an American accent is because other than thanks to a top notch education (and several years study in the US) how is he or she going to have such an accent.
Simon   Thursday, November 13, 2003, 17:42 GMT
I can somewhat agree with you there...I had a professor whose parents were from Nigeria, but he had the most beautiful British accent, bordering on Received Pronounciation and I loved to get his tests and listen to him speak because it was all so clear and not laden with the idioms and the 'lazy tongue' too many American professors seem to cultivate in order to stay "hip" to their students.

But what I meant by this message was how come you have to learn English to be considered well educated? The more I think about it the more I realize that in other countries, being proficient in a language other than English could be the hallmark of an educated person..how do I know? I've never left this country? Someone who speaks portuguese and french in Brazil might be considered highly educated, I don't know!