One of the most commonly asked questions I’ve been asked since I was quite young was: “Which country are you from?”
Earlier this morning, while attending an Executive Networking Breakfast, I worked the room, networking and introducing myself to everyone, as I usually do. Two professionals sitting at my table asked me where I was from. I responded that I was from San Leandro, which was slightly up north in East Bay, from San Jose. One of the guys then clarified his inquiry, by stating that he meant, from where did I come from previously?
At that moment, I knew the exact answer this person was looking for. That was when I explained that I had a “Deaf Accent” due to my profound hearing loss since birth. Ah, it all made sense to everyone at the table. From then, we continued with our discussions on other introductory topics.
While I was in 7th grade, one of a fellow classmate asked me this same question during a break in a P.E. class outside, where I was from, since he couldn’t quite place my accent. As an attempt to be silly, I told him that I was from Mars. Then, I told him that my accent was part of the “Olde Country” and that I was just a unique American, due to the culmination of my ancestors settled in the East several hundred years ago from various ships dating back to the early 1500’s. Kidding aside, I finally mentioned my most famous word: “What? Can you please repeat this?” This is usually followed by additional request for others to either speak slowly or enunciating the words, since I’m hearing impaired and need to lip-read clearly.
Now, what is a deaf accent? Well, the best way I can explain this is the individual’s unique way of speaking, based on the cumulative experience of life-long speech therapy, augmented by continuous correction by a parent, when the slightest mispronunciation occurred, and the strive to fit into today’s hearing world, based on the strength of pronouncing specific sounds, coupled with the various aspects of the individual’s personality.
For me, whenever I speak, I have a “script” memorized that would allow me to mimic my speech patterns over again multiple times. Also, I’d monitor whoever I’d be speaking with to ensure that every word I’ve spoken were clear. There were many times several years ago, while as Regulatory Affairs Officer at Antibodies Incorporated from 1997 to 2003, one of my most memorable speech snafu was the mispronunciation of one of the company’s product line, GiardEIA, which I pronounced the beginning with a hard “G” like the name, Garcia. I felt quite silly, and remember this time the most because this was one of many times when I was running team meetings, thus taking the reins and steering the meetings.
At that time, I learned quickly that I had to allow myself to be open to continuous improvements, while strategically maintain my composure. The most important lesson I learned at a younger age was that others focused on how successfully people handled things that arise, with grace, which everyone remembered and respected.
This brought back memories when I lived and worked at L’Institut Pasteur in Paris, France during Spring of 2005, which was a place where I could fit in right away and felt at home among my peers and colleagues. Everyone I worked with strived to practice their spoken English with me, which prompted them to speak slowly while enunciating the English words. Other times, when I walked into a room full of French-speaking professionals, I felt right at home since my residual hearing does not have clarity of human speech, without the visual inputs, which include lip-reading in individual setting. I’m proud to share that I was successful within my daily interactions in Paris. In the end, after learning to speak, read, write, and dream in French, my “Exit” presentation at L’Institut Pasteur was briefly in French, which I’m extremely proud of!
My life during the past year and half has involved constant interaction with other professionals within my network at the events that I attend, participate into, or contributed to. Nearly all of these events include interaction with everyone who relies on the spoken English and finely tuned and keen hearing. Thus, I strived to do the same so I can gain the respect of my peers, whom may be potential clients, or offer me introductions to their clients, which occurred this morning.
Earlier this morning, during a brief introduction of everyone within the room, we each took turns standing up and speak briefly our name, background, and current company. Immediately after the individual introductions, one of the partners of a firm approached me at the end of the event, and told me about two of his clients, whom he thought that would benefit from my contributions of background and skills. I was thrilled to hear this!
Again, sounding like a broken record, I couldn’t believe it that one of the partners within a top firm, which also reputed one of the best places to work at, approached me at the end of breakfast and asked me if I’d be willing to help out two of his clients with their projects. Definitely, I’m in the right place! I guess my accent made me unique, or got me noticed in the first place.
Also perhaps how I handled the situations during the entire morning impressed everyone, which showed everyone the type of person I am. As a Management Consultant, I’m able to view the corporate structure and interactions from my own unique way and offer solutions.
In summary, in response to another of the most commonly asked question regarding my accent, I do not know which foreign language my accent closely resembles to. Why don’t you find out for yourself and invite me for an in-person meeting or to deliver a talk during an event? This way, perhaps you can determine for yourself, and when you do, please let me know!