It drives me batty when people imitate what they percieve to be an American accent in Spanish. If they did it well, or reliably, or if they actually sounded like what Americans sound like when they speak Spanish, or if I myself had a strong accent in Spanish, perhaps I would take to it more kindly, think it cute. Instead I’ve got my blood cells jumping up and down in a jumpity motion we call boiling.
It was the worst when the Chilean English teachers at the institute where I worked used to do it. They, at least, were more capable, being language professionals and bilingual to boot, but I still found it off the mark. I also found it rude.
I was a great imitator of accents until I started teaching ESL. I used to bring my ex to tears of laughter by imitating my Hindi teacher who would leave me long, berating voicemails on my phone at work telling me that my homework quality was poor or reminding me that I hadn’t done it (this following how poor the previous one had been). She was from the Punjab, which borders Pakistan and had a lot to say about Partition (when Pakistan and India divided), sometimes even when yelling into the phone about my homework.
So there we’d be, in stitches, me rolling my rs and ls back into my mouth and talking about my terrible handwriting in Devenagari (the script used for Hindi and a bunch of other languages) was. When I started teaching ESL to adult students from all over the world, I thought for sure I’d get some good language-imitation practice.
But I found it unfunny. Sure, I could imitate Krasimira, but how good was my Bulgarian, or Daljit, but how good was my Punjabi, or Enkshargal, but my Mongolian? nonexistent. It seemed in poor taste to imitate, and so I didn’t. Not because I’m morally superior, but because I don’t like to do things that make me uncomfortable. My particular subculture (Jewish, female, neoyorquina, thirty-cough) doesn’t prize making fun of people after the age of eight, and even then it’s looked down upon.
So back to Chile. When faced with a person who imitates the gringo accent in Spanish, I wonder two things: 1. Why don’t you do that when you speak English, it would give you the prettiest accent in my native language that I ever did hear? and 2. What would happen if I gave you a tongue-lashing in near accentless Chilean Spanish? If I avoid all the words with rs and ds, I could really do a great job.
Which is why I will never (again) date someone named Rodrigo. Or say the word adolorida (in pain) or refrigerador unless it’s absolutely necessary. Which if you think about it, is pretty unlikely.
But at this point I’ve picked up the somewhat Chilean (goodness knows it’s not from New York) habit of smiling and nodding in the face of adversity, and trying not to be rude outright, even if the other party is being malcriado (poorly-raised, like a miscreant). So when faced with the accent imitators, I simply ignore it.
And den I seet and tallk to frence abouditt.
And that always makes me feel better.