“You’re Bengali, right? Obhijit, Obhishek… ‘O’s everywhere.” The guy laughed, thinking he was funny. As a Bengali working in a multicultural workplace, I’m used to these stereotypes. Today, I want to explain what’s wrong with this scenario. Many languages in India originated from Sanskrit and have words that made their way into descendant languages with differences in pronunciation and form. Equivalent words sound different under the influence of new languages.
I don’t mind if somebody pronounces my name wrong(wrong is a relative term here), because they are not familiar with my language. But I have an objection if somebody says that I’m doing it wrong. Every language is different and beautiful in its own way. It’s better to respect those differences.
There are so diversity in pronunciation even in one language being spoken in different part of the country or different part of world. Once I was watching a YouTube video and a lady was saying that almond should be pronounced as uh-mond(l silent), many native English speaker complained saying “But in our country we call it almond(l is not silent)”. If somebody sees the name Kjellberg or Camila Cabello, they may not know that the names are actually pronounced as ‘Shell’-berg and Camila Cabe-oh. It’s most likely to mispronounce this names at first but once the name-bearer has conveyed how his/her name is pronounced, we can’t really go and tell them, “You know what? You pronounce your name wrongly. (Although I don’t have any idea of the language from which your parents chose the name from) let me teach you the correct way to pronounce it.”
I receive many comments like:
“Go sing a song. Bengalis are good singers.”
Not all Bengalis are good singers, so let’s avoid stereotyping.
In the middle of a political discussion.
“You Bengalis think you’re ruling India.”
The tone of the text is offensive. All political leaders aspire to rule India and hold the highest power, so how can this desire be specific only to Bengalis?
“You Bengalis have the worst fake accent.”
I’ll do my best to communicate in Hindi, but I’m not fluent. Please don’t mock me for trying. When speaking English, I won’t imitate a British or American accent. Instead, I try to reduce the influence of my mother tongue on my speech.
While working with people from foreign countries, we may not always understand if someone is a man or woman, or their accent. They likely face similar challenges when working with us. Mutual respect is a major factor that binds people from different cultures together.
End note: We should respect and welcome diversity when working in a multicultural team. Mature individuals should avoid making comments about race, language, or anything that may hurt someone’s feelings.
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