What are the benefits of embracing linguistic diversity?

Hiromi (Japanese, female, aged 20) visits Kinkakuji

Hiromi, a 20-year-old university student in Kyoto, was passionate about studying English. She believed that achieving native English pronunciation was crucial for effective communication. Hiromi enrolled in the English program at Kyoto Notre Dame University, where her professors hailed from the UK, US, Canada, and Australia. She looked up to them as models of perfect English pronunciation.

One sunny afternoon, Hiromi decided to take a break from her studies and visit a popular tourist site in Kyoto, the Kinkaku-ji Temple. As she strolled through the serene gardens, she noticed a group of foreign tourists marvelling at the temple's beauty. Intrigued, Hiromi approached to eavesdrop on their conversation.

To her surprise, the tourists were not speaking English with the same pristine accents she was accustomed to hearing in her university classes. Their pronunciations varied, and some had heavy accents that were distinctly non-native. Hiromi had always associated non-native accents with poor language skills, but as she listened closely, she noticed something remarkable.

Despite their diverse accents, the tourists were able to communicate and understand one another effortlessly. They laughed, shared stories, and exchanged cultural insights. Hiromi was amazed at how effectively they conveyed their thoughts and feelings, even with their non-native pronunciations.

Curiosity piqued; Hiromi decided to strike up a conversation with the tourists. She introduced herself and began chatting about their experiences in Kyoto. As they spoke, Hiromi realised that these tourists brought a unique perspective to the conversation. Their diverse linguistic backgrounds enriched the exchange, offering fresh insights into culture, history, and different ways of thinking.

In that moment, Hiromi's belief in the primacy of native English pronunciation began to shift. She realised that linguistic diversity brought a beautiful tapestry of ideas and experiences to the table. The incident at Kinkaku-ji Temple opened her eyes to the advantages of embracing individual accents and unique linguistic flavours.

Returning to her studies at Kyoto Notre Dame University, Hiromi decided to embrace her own Japanese English accent without concern. She realised that her pronunciation was a part of her Japanese identity, representing her cultural heritage and personal journey. Hiromi understood that clear communication was more important than striving for a native accent.

From that day forward, Hiromi encouraged her fellow classmates to embrace their own accents and be proud of their linguistic diversity. She shared her newfound perspective with her professors, who applauded her open-mindedness and willingness to challenge traditional notions.

As Hiromi continued her studies, she pursued a broader understanding of English as a global language. She discovered the richness and depth that accents and dialects brought to communication, recognising that these differences could bridge cultures and foster understanding.

In the end, Hiromi's journey taught her that language is not merely about pronunciation but about the connections it forges among people. She had come to appreciate the beauty of linguistic diversity and the power of understanding, regardless of accent or origin.