“You have such a cute accent, where are you from?”
This is the general question that I get asked whenever I introduce myself to someone for the first time. I then proceed to answer with “I’m from Indonesia but I’ve lived in the UK for eight years,” a sentence I’ve said so many times, I’ve lost count. Their faces will morph into ones of mostly shock and awe, followed by confusion. “How come you don’t have a British accent?” they continue to ask, at which all I could do is laugh and say with a shrug, “don’t I?”
It’s the same thing every time. I guess if you have an accent, you tend not to realise that you do until somebody mentions it to you. In most cases once you are told that you do in fact have an accent, you automatically know what accent you possess. But in my case, neither do I know that I have an accent nor do I know what accent it is. And this is only half of the story.
When I am talking to my fellow Indonesians, it’s a whole different scenario. As soon as I explain to them that I am originally from Jakarta but have lived in Manchester for a long time they will, without fail, say “kok logatmu medok sih?” which roughly translated means “how come you have a Javanese accent?” a very curious thing to ask as I cannot speak Javanese. Bear in mind, however, that this is referring only to when I am speaking Indonesian. When I speak English, they cannot identify what accent I have. The closest they can classify it as is that it’s neither a typical Indonesian accent nor a very prominent British accent. I guess that makes it 50/50.
I recently met an exchange student from the US. He’s Indonesian but has lived in the US since a very young age. His Indonesian is still very much fluent but he has the thickest American accent when speaking English. He was also amongst the people who didn’t fail to mention that I have an accent that’s not quite British but not quite Indonesian.
I guess it doesn’t matter much what accent I have, it’s just a quirky little thing that I’ve encountered numerous times and which I’m sure will encounter many more times in the future. So now when people ask me where I’m from, I will simply answer: “I’m an Indonesian born Chinese who cannot speak a single word of Chinese and have lived almost half my life in England.” I’ll let them decide what kind of accent I have.