As a child of immigrant parents,
linguistic prejudice has been an inevitable aspect of my life. I have witnessed
my parents, specifically my mother, endure linguistic prejudice multiple times.
My mother always speaks with conviction when it comes to communicating in Urdu;
at gatherings you can hear her loud, confident voice amongst the crowd of
women. But when it comes to communicating in English, whether its with a retailer
at the grocery store, clerks at the bank, or even booking appointments over the
phone, I have always heard her voice tremble. She often goes to the extent of trying
to avoid the interactions completely, because she is unable to effectively
articulate herself, and her accent impairs her confidence to a further extent.
The most recent incident of linguistic prejudice
that I can recall, was a few weeks ago when my mom and I went to book appointments
for massage therapy. Although my mom is a recurrent customer at the location,
she was still spoken down to by the receptionist. My mother always seems to speak
in an extremely apologetic tone when she speaks to people in English, its as if
she owes them something for not being able to communicate her words efficiently.
She spoke to the front desk receptionist about the cupping therapy that they
offered, for me because she tends to go for the therapeutic massage. I stood
there silent, while my mom asked questions about the therapy because she wanted
to clarify all the details, including the expenses and how the therapy would be
beneficial for me. The receptionist spoke in an extremely condescending tone
from the first question, and appeared to be mocking my mother’s mispronunciation
of words, by repeating her words, while staring blatantly. I had to intervene
after listening to my mom’s unsuccessful attempt to book the appointments. The
moment I spoke, there was an instantaneous change in the woman’s tone from condescending
to respectful. I was given much more respect, because I could pronounce my
words and had to apparent accent. This incident along with the plethora of
other incidents, has taught me time and time again that English is considered a
much more superior language compared to any other language. Those who can speak
English fluently without an accent, are more socially prestige than those who
cannot. Since adolescence, one of my first lessons of living in Canada as the
child of an immigrant has been that in order to be taken seriously and to not
experience linguistic biases, I must always speak English fluently.