My dad was frustrated. The airline computer could not understand him. Voice recognition barely works for me, but my dad has an accent and that makes it harder.
My parents have lived in the United States for 40 years and Americans still cannot understand them.
I comprehend both sides of the argument. I know how hard it is for immigrants to be accepted here and I know what it is like not to understand someone because they talk through a filter of their native tongue.
When I was at the University of Washington I had an Asian teacher’s assistant in chemistry who I could not interpret. I was failing, which made me more frustrated. My parents’ were paying all this money for my education and I could not make sense of my instructor, that and I was really bad at science.
My parents worked hard to immigrate to the United States. When they applied to come here the government only allowed 50 Filipinos into the country. You had to be the cream of the crop to be accepted. The Filipino economy is terrible so my parents obtained advanced degrees to find professional jobs here. The immigrant has to overcompensate to compete with native born candidates.
The need to come here for a better life balances the challenges and discrimination immigrants face. The English classes offered in their country are taught by someone who has an accent so they are learning to pronounce things incorrectly from the start.
I cannot speak Filipino and do not have an accent, you could talk to me on the phone and think I was born in Bellevue.
Sometimes at my job I cannot understand someone with an accent, but I have empathy for where they are coming from. They are like my parents, yet part of me knows that for them to have an easier time adjusting here, speaking understandable English will be helpful to them and their families.
There are free conversation classes at the Bellevue Regional Library 425-450-1765, that help with pronunciation.
As for my dad’s situation, I grabbed the phone and yelled the spelling of our last name. It worked, the computer understood me. Maybe next time they can do voice recognition for accents, especially Filipino ones.