Does my voice whiten me or not? A reflection on the instability of race and accent (by Vijay Ramjattan)

Guest blogger Vijay Ramjattan is a PhD candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, a division of the University of Toronto. His research interests lie at the intersection of language and race as these relate to the experiences of marginalized people in the workplace. These interests are exemplified by his MA research examining the professional microaggressions experienced by racialized English language teachers and his doctoral work on the racialization of accents found in the communicative labour of international teaching assistants.

My parents make fun of how I pronounce the word “water.” When I pronounce this word, the /t/ sounds more like a /d/ (what linguists refer to as flapping) and the second syllable is unstressed. In contrast, my parents, who were born in Trinidad, pronounce “water” as “wata.” For them, the way that I pronounce this word is a result of being born and raised in Canada and thus having a so-called Canadian accent. However, according to my parents, a Canadian accent is a metonym for something else. In fact, when they comment on how I sound Canadian, my parents are actually remarking on how I sound white. That is, they usually connect my speech to that of people in the Canadian media, who are mostly white and identify as Canadian.

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Sociotechnically, with love (by Dr Mela Sarkar)

The past calendar year, BILD’s fourth of active blogging, saw our small group of mostly Montreal-based members grow by more than 50%. The original core group of BILDers were all attached to Montreal-area universities in 2014 and were able to commit to being physically present at our biweekly meetings. Only when graduate student members one by one finished their degrees and moved away did we feel the need to create an “affiliate” category of member. Active members are, for us, still members who can come together in the flesh. For a long time the active membership increased very slowly, with the gradual arrival in Montreal of new graduate students or faculty members interested in questions of belonging, identity, language and diversity from a critical sociolinguistic perspective.

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Shelve your “self” at the multilingual door! (by Dr Matt Apple)

Our guest blogger this week is Dr. Matthew Apple, a second language educator and researcher in the Department of Communication, College of Letters at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. Matt’s research interests in “possible selves” in language learning stems from his personal upbringing, the eldest son of a family of eight children raised in rural Upstate New York, and his movements in multiple social circles. He has blogged quite a bit about his “linguistic upbringing” and family ancestral history. Matt’s academic career as a student and educator extends from one point of the globe to another. It has taken him through the halls of Bard College (BA), University of Notre Dame (MFA) and Temple University (MEd, EdD).

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There and back again: Dialect levelling and maintenance (by Melissa Enns)

“It’s a dangerous business… going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep to your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  Bilbo Baggins (The Fellowship of the Ring

I’ve often thought of this line as I’ve gone through life’s adventures. Like Bilbo in The Hobbit, I find that I miss the comfort of the life I left, yet when I finally return home, I find myself changed, more worldly, and somehow unable to slip back into life as I used to know it. It is a disconcerting feeling, as though somehow I’ve been separated from a piece of my identity. Recently, I’ve realized that the same could be said about my idiolect, or personal dialect. 

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People ask me where I’m from (by Hélène Bramwell)

Our guest blogger this week, Hélène Bramwell, is a second language educator, teacher trainer and researcher in the area of applied linguistics. Raised in Ecuador by a Québécois mother and British father, she speaks English, French and Spanish fluently. Her academic background includes a B.Sc in Biology and a M.A. in Applied Linguistics from Concordia University, as well as ESL teaching certifications from Cambridge University. Her research interests are second language learning motivation and identity development in the process of acquiring a second or third language. Currently, Hélène works as an instructor at both College Lasalle and Champlain Regional College, teaching ESL and training novice teachers in the TESL program, respectively. In her own time, she continues her independent project of five years to reach native fluency in German. She develops vocabulary and a feeling for the culture and pronunciation by watching Sturm der Liebe, a German soap opera which airs 45 minutes a day Monday through Friday. Apart from a passion for learning languages and teaching, Hélène is a certified yoga instructor and salsa dancing enthusiast. She also sings with a women’s choir group. She travels back to Ecuador regularly to visit close friends and family.

People ask me where I’m from.  This is a loaded question because what does it address, anyway? Is it about where I was born? Or where my parents were born? What about where they grew up? And where they live now?

My answer is usually: “That’s a long story.” Continue reading