Language history

I grew up in Northern NJ in close proximity to New York City. On the top of a childhood’s building we could see the blinking antenna of one of the Twin Towers.

My very young years I was surrounded by an array of very involved extended family that did not speak English, if you don’t include my parents.

My parents were/are Cuban immigrants. They came to the US as teenagers. They speak now with an accent but are fluent in both languages of English and Spanish.

From about 1 years old to 5 I live in a Spanish-speaking country but when it was time to start kinder my parents decided I needed to come back to the US.

From K thru 8th grade I went to a Polish Catholic School in the days before ESL(English as a Second Language)programs. There was zero tolerance for anything other than English. I used to have to sing midnight mass in Polish. My grandparents seeing my decline of Spanish enrolled my older sister and I in Spanish school where we learned how to read and write in Spanish. I am sadly a Spanish school dropout but luckily I was able to at least hold on to some elementary Spanish reading and writing skills.

As a teenager I went to several High Schools. The first was in a town where 99.9% were white and so continued the zero tolerance rule unless I was specifically in a language class where I took Spanish and did average in the class.
The second HS was set in Northern Havana as some nickname the town I went to next in S. Florida. It is 6 months of my life I can never get back. I was absolutely miserable.My final HS was in my childhood town where I rode out the last 2 years of High School never being able to go to the bathroom alone. It was a dangerous HS that had a movie made about it. It is also the HS were my parents met. My grandparents had a strict CUBANS ONLY dating policy they enforced.

As a young adult I had friends from all backgrounds and my United Nation tendencies can be seen in my dating life as well. The only group I never really dated was a fellow Cuban. There was ONE but he ruined it for all others.
Then I met my ex-husband who happened to be an immigrant from a sister country to my family. He spoke minimal English and a result my Spanish improved ten fold while we were together. I reconnected with my Spanish self and have since rekindled with pride for my culture, history, music and language.

My child has rudimentary Spanish skills. It is my fault. I wish it felt more natural to speak Spanish with the child but English flows easier between us. The child understands it but the pronunciation makes me cringe. We live in a town where the Honor Spanish class is taught by a Polish person.

When I hear myself speak I do not hear a Spanish accent even though Spanish was my first language. I do not have what would be described as a NJ or NY accent. Others have commented I have a hint of an accent but that they can’t pinpoint from where.

I have lived in many places, spoken at least two languages fluently, but no accent? How is that possible? I often wonder if I think in something other than English.

My question to you is: How do you feel your environment has affected or not your accent? The way you speak?


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