Considering that I’m a pale girl with brown curly hair and green eyes, it would seem unlikely that I would ever be asked where I’m from considering that I live in Ireland. The problem lies begins when I open my mouth. I have a weird accent and I don’t really know why. I was tested for autism because of it when I was younger and that proved negative, so I was refered to a speech therapist because I tended to mispronounce a lot of words too. They said maybe the accent came from being around my family from Dublin whereas I live elsewhere. In secondary school, I was always asked, rather rudely, “Are you from Poland?”, “Why do you sound American?”, “Are you really from here?” but I could never answer because I didn’t know what they meant – In my head, I talk woth a Belfast accent. I think some people just presumed that I put the accent on. Eventually I forgot about it… Until last summer, that is. Last summer I participated as a volunteer in an English speaking summer camp for Spanish teens. Multiple Spaniards remarked that I spoke differently than the other Irish volunteers and that I was easier to understand. It was the first time that anyone had ever said something positive about the way I speak but it has always been made out to be a negative thing so I just made a silly excuse, saying that maybe it was because I do drama and put on a lot of accents while acting. I knew that it was not true but I didn’t know what else to say.
I was reminded of all of this tonight when I was getting a lift to a Christmas party. I had never met the girl that I was getting a lift with and she asked, just as we were getting out of the car “Are you from here?”, and my throat choked up. It was a pretty innocent question but I was so self conscious for the rest of the evening that I struggled to talk.
I am not on the autistic spectrum. I am not a foreigner. I don’t put on an accent. Those are the things I know for certain. Something that I learnt recently is that I have dyslexia – it’s not an official official diagnosis so I almost feel a bit fake calling myself dyslexic. The dyslexia mentor in my college informally assessed me and said that it is blatantly obvious that I have dyslexia, but that it would cost £500 to get an official diagnosis since its not offered on the NHS. Children are normally diagnosed before they turn 16 by an educational psychologist in school, the NHS doesn’t offer it because there is no reason a kid should have to go through education without anyone noticing their difficulties.
I was told I would be put on the waiting list to see the educational psychologist when I was 13 but (angry rambling paragraph warning) I knew there was a long waiting list so I decided not to worry about it. I asked a few months before my GCSE’s where I was on the waiting list because I wanted extra time for the exams (I’ve no shame, honestly). I was then unapologetically informed that they “forgot” to put me on the waiting list. I managed to eventually get the extra time because of my pre-existing mental health issues, but that almost made me feel even angrier because I had the exact same mental health issues a year earlier and didn’t get extra time then. I can’t lie, my previous school’s negligence cost me a lot emotionally, academically and now financially considering I’ll have to pay for a private diagnosis.
That last paragraph went off track but what I meant to say (type?) was that I think my accent and dyslexia are related considering that dyslexia can cause speech and language issues (source). So yeah, it is what it is. At this point I think my accent is too deeply engrained to change it but I learnt last summer that when I actually am a foreigner, maybe my accent isn’t so bad.