The “Asian accent” tells the story of Chinese-American assimilation in a nutshell. Our parents have the accent that white Americans perceive as the most foreign out of all the possible alternatives, so our choice is to have no accent at all. The accent of our parents is the accent of the grimy streets of Chinatown with its mahjong parlors and fried food stalls and counterfeit jewelry, so we work to wipe away all traces of that world from our speech so we can settle comfortably into our roles as respectable middle-class doctors, lawyers, engineers, hundreds of miles from Chinatown.
No wonder we react so viscerally to the “ching-chong, ching-chong” schoolyard taunt. To attack our language, our ability to sound “normal,” is to attack our ability to be normal. It’s to attack everything we’ve worked for.
–Arthur Chu on the significance of the Chinese English accent.
Maybe it’s different in the US, but there is definitely a second+ generation1 “Asian Australian” accent. It’s kind of… softer-but-more-clipped than the three generally recognized Anglo Australian accents,2 and different again to the accent of Australians from Eastern and Southern European backgrounds.
It’s a strange thing to think about, because Australians tend to assume we have only one (or maybe two) “Australian accents”. There are a quite a few more, but because they tend to be linked to ethnicity rather than geographical region, it’s sort of like people want to… pretend they’re not “real Australian” or something.
Yeah. How about not, hey.
- “Second+” since Asian immigration to Australia started like eight or nine generations ago. A fact that tends to get glossed over by, in particular, more recently migrated Brits. Gee. I wonder why. ^
- These are “Steve Irwin”, “Hugh Jackman”, and “Geoffrey Rush”, if you’re wondering. Also known as “broad”, “standard”, and “cultivated”. ^