Two Cents: All Accents Are Not Created Equal

WonderSpice

With so many Asian artists attempting to cross over to the US music industry this year (BoA, Wonder Girls, Se7en, Utada Hikaru, etc), it goes without question that increased public awareness also brings increased scrutiny. Across the board it seems like a lot of people are commenting on how (fill in the name of an Asian artist here) needs to work out their accent (Utada being the exception). Or how they sound foolish or embarrassing. Go to any youtube video or forum post about these artists and you’ll undoubtedly see all the negative remarks. You know I’m not going to lie, I’ve made similar comments many times myself.

However I think it begs the question, what makes an Asian accent so “ugly”? I mean, British and Latin accents are almost unanimously considered attractive or sexy, yet Asian accents are often the subject of ridicule and shame. What makes Enrique sound so exotic and smooth, but Se7en awkward and funny? What made the Spice Girls sound so endearing but the Wonder Girls like level 2 ESL students?

It really makes me wonder… are all of our perceptions of audible beauty truly so objectively aligned that we can collectively say Asian accents in English are unattractive? Or do we believe they are ugly because pop & social media has always deemed it so. Is our disdain for the Asian accent fostered by nature or nurture? And if it is by nurture, can and will that perception ever change?

Given, I understand that there will always be caricatures and extreme extrapolations of reality. If there weren’t, then people like Russel Peters & Bobby Lee would be out of the job and we’d sorely miss some laughs. But will there ever be a time when an Asian person’s limited ability to enunciate their R’s will be as welcomely accepted as a Latin’s tendency to roll them?

In a perfect world, as long as one can understand what the artist is saying then that should be more than sufficient. But the world ain’t perfect. So until then it’s “herro” and good bye.

  • godhammer

    There’s nothing wrong with Asian accented English. I think it sounds cool. Just drop the assumptions made by American culture, and you’ll be able to appreciate more of the good stuff out there.

    • Carly

      Agreed with godhammer. I’m in a relationship with a guy who is Asian, albeit he speaks with no accent, I think they’re accent is just as sexy as all the others. =]

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  • cudencuden

    accents on whose standards? why be so centered. thats like saying driving on the left side of the road is the wrong side….. people in the U.S needs to understand that there are other cultures and differences in the world and just because something is not Yankee Doodle then it’s oriental, foreign…again…by whose standards? take things for what they are and not judge.

  • http://filmbeats.wordpress.com filmbeats

    You don’t have to be blind or a masterful musician to hear when someone plays the wrong note during a piano piece. I think the same can be said about accents and voices. It might be harder to quantify or measure but it’s all sound. Some sounds are unpleasant to the majority and some are not. However, I will also mention The Notorious MSG.