We are how we sound: Accent, identity, and the roots of mutual respect
What do our voices say about us? “Say That Again?” is a new podcast series about how our identities and experiences shape how we sound – and how the way we speak can be a source of pride, resilience, and understanding. New episodes weekly beginning Feb. 25.
We often think of diversity in terms of the way we look: the color of our skin, hair, and eyes; how cultural heritage appears in clothes, in food, and on holiday calendars.
But what about the way we sound?
How we talk is the audible expression of our identities. It is shaped by our families, communities, histories, beliefs, and experiences. And, for better or worse, it signals everything from our intelligence to our trustworthiness, in ways that influence perception and change lives.
Our new podcast “Say That Again?” shares stories of people learning to embrace, and even celebrate, how they speak: a Puerto Rican woman rediscovering her own history, an Indigenous family seeing and hearing themselves on TV for the first time, a Ghanaian immigrant finding confidence in the way he communicates, a community reclaiming its ancestors’ language, and more.
Each story shows the strength and resilience it takes to face society’s biases about accent and language – and find pride and dignity in our own unique voices.
Hosted by reporters Jessica Mendoza and Jingnan Peng.
Jessica Mendoza: How we talk is a funny thing.
Katherine Kinzler: Everybody has an accent. It would be impossible to speak at all without an accent.
Mendoza: Right now, you’re listening to me. And you’re hearing not just what I’m saying, but the way I’m saying it.
Jingnan Peng: Now how often have you had this happen?
Mendoza: Could you say that again?
Marlene Schoenberg: Could you say that again?
Kinzler: Say that again?
Dominic Amegashitsi: Let me say that slowly so you can understand.
Mendoza: I’m Jessica Mendoza.
Peng: And I’m Jingnan Peng.
Mendoza: We’re reporters with The Christian Science Monitor. And this is Say That Again? A new podcast about how we sound, how we listen, and why that matters.
Peng: Sorry, say that again?
Mendoza: Yeah, that’s the name of the podcast!
Peng: And did you say it was about how we sound?
Peng: So we’ll have stories like the one about the woman who thought she’d lost her Puerto Rican accent?
Cynthia Santos DeCure: It’s off. You sound like you don’t speak Spanish.
Mendoza: That’s right.
Peng: What about the one where the guy didn’t get the job because of how he speaks?
Amegashitsi: It was because of my accent that they were worried.
Mendoza: That one too.
Peng: Oh, what about the family who was so excited that their people’s voices were being heard on TV?
Tia Tidwell: When I hear those voices, it warms my whole soul up.
Mendoza: Yes. Jing, you know this!
Peng: Yeah, but I want to make sure everyone else does, too.
Mendoza: So whether you speak fast or slow –
Peng: – whether English is your first language or your fifth –
Mendoza: – whether you sound southern, or coastal, or somewhere in between –
Peng: – or if you believe that everyone deserves to be heard, and not judged, no matter what they sound like –
Santos DeCure: They’re intertwined. Your sound is who you are.
Mendoza: Then this is the podcast for you.
Mendoza: Subscribe to Say That Again? on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher.