Losing It

In 1977’s “Saturday Night Fever,” an ambitious Bay Ridge girl dreamed of shedding her Brooklyn accent to make a new life across the river. Thirty years later, immigrants and native New Yorkers still try to change the way they speak in this city – wanting fit in, be accepted by peers, and most importantly, be understood by everyone they speak to. Today’s linguists may have accepted the idea that there is no one correct way of speaking, but most people continue to hold deep-seeded and often negative perceptions about themselves and others based on the way they speak. The number of people enrolling in accent reduction or accent neutralization courses taught by speech pathologists is on the rise in New York. And many New Yorkers spend their days switching back and forth between their natural way of speaking and a more standardized English.

Snap Judgments

A linguistic anthropologist discusses accent discrimination and how accents shape the way in which we think about other people.

You Talk Funny

More and more New Yorkers are choosing to lose their accent. But others want to hold on to theirs. Find out why.

Liberian Code Switching

Stop Talking African

Liberian refugees on Staten Island use code-switching to overcome linguistic and social barriers on a daily basis.

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