As a Speech & Accent Coach, I often question to what extent it’s important for someone to speak with an American Accent.
For example, I wonder about Melania Trump. Those who support her are adamant that she is a multi-lingual immigrant who should be commended for her ability to speak various languages, but evidence that she speaks those languages well (French and Italian are two of them) is hard to find. Her recent video, recorded visits to schools with French and Italian children show her speaking English with a few friendly “Bonjour’s” and “Ciao’s” sprinkled in. The argument is that if she spoke those languages, she would surely do so in the company of French and Italian children.
Although it really shouldn’t matter whether she speaks French or Italian, it does matter that she speaks broken English with no visible evidence of attempting an American Accent… or should it matter?
Is it important for the First Lady to speak with an American Accent?
On the one hand, we could give her a break for being an immigrant. Her first language is Slovenian, so one might expect her to speak English with an accent.. But since she chose to marry an American (Donald Trump) and support him in becoming the President of the US, wouldn’t it make sense that as First Lady she should at least make an attempt to learn American English?
What could Melania Trump gain if she spoke with an American Accent?
She could speak up to clarify her intent. When she wears a jacket that reads on the back: “I really don’t care; do you?” when going to visit immigrant children who have been separated from their parents, it would be nice if she could speak up and explain whether it was a fashion statement with unintended consequences or intentional. If she did so with an American Accent (apologizing I would presume), we might be more inclined to give her a break.
Other immigrants could respect and be motivated by her. By speaking the way she does, she may send the message that she really doesn’t have to be polished or clear. She may send a message of entitlement, not a genuine desire to support others. Unlike Barbara Bush, the wife of the first George Bush, who had a passion for family literacy, Melania may seem more like an actor in a play than a First Lady who stands for something. If she strived to speak American English with an American Accent, it might be different. People might respect her.
History might judge her separately from her husband. Melania has publicly proclaimed that she doesn’t always agree with “The Donald”. However, the more time that passes and more history we have with her husband’s leadership abilities (or lack thereof), it would be refreshing and pleasant if the First Lady could at least “weigh in” with some evidence of independent thought as a woman and human being. She mentioned wanting to work against cyber-bullying, but she hasn’t been a strong force in actively taking it on as her issue of choice. Michelle Obama did a beautiful job of speaking up without being distracting, and partisanism aside (this is not a political article), if Melania spoke up with an American Accent, she could make a statement as an independent immigrant woman that people could evaluate for her own merits, instead of someone who is “just along for the ride” on the coattails of her hubbie.
If you would like to work on your American Accent, you may need to hire a Speech & Accent Coach! You never know when you will get your “big break” to speak up in the public arena, and it might be a good idea to get prepared for that day early on!