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Some Reflections on Foreign Accents

Isn’t it interesting that you don’t have an accent? Doesn’t it feel like you talk normal, while other people from other places are the ones who have accents?

One of the unfortunate facts of a fallen world is that we can tend to judge and make assumptions of people by how different they sound from us. The word barbarian, for example originated as an insult. Ancient Greeks heard non-Greeks talk, and they thought, “How funny! It’s as if when they talk, all they’re saying is, ‘Bar bar bar.’” Thus, ancient Greeks called non-Greeks “bar-bar-ians” (barbarians) because of the odd way that foreigners sounded to them.

As we follow Christ, we learn not to judge people by the way they sound or where they’re from. In Colossians 3, we learn that we have a new self, one that doesn’t judge people based on how similar to or different they are from us. Speaking of the new self, Colossians 3:11 says, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”


“As we follow Christ, we learn not to judge people by the way they sound or where they’re from.”


So let’s state the obvious: You and I should never respect someone less because he or she talks differently than we do. There is no reason to think that the customer service rep from some other country is somehow less worthy of respect because he or she talks with a heavy accent.

In fact, if you know someone who speaks with a foreign accent, there is every reason for you to see that person as highly intelligent.

How so? Well, the reason you’re hearing that foreign accent is that that person is speaking in a language that isn’t his or her native language. What that means is that the person has another language that he or she is already fluent in, and, chances are, that person is coming along quite well with the second language.

Strike up a conversation with someone for whom English is not his or her first language, and you might find that the person speaks 3 or 4 languages! I don’t know about you, but speaking just 2 languages is pretty impressive. Far from being an indicator of lesser intelligence, a foreign accent should be seen as a badge of intelligence.


“Far from being an indicator of lesser intelligence, a foreign accent should be seen as a badge of intelligence.”


And while we’re on the subject of increasing our respect those who are foreign to us, we would be missing out if we didn’t mention our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe. Allow me to read from another article published on Renew.org. In her article called “Family Resemblance in Foreign Christians,” Taffeta Chime talks about “how tightly connected the family of God’s kingdom really is.”

Referring to her time in China with house churches, she writes, “I have never experienced such closeness to the Acts 2 church as I did during my time with the brothers and sisters there.”

This “family resemblance,” she writes, “has happened again and again in my life with brothers and sisters from all around the world—South Korea, Madagascar, England, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brazil, Ireland, Sierra Leone, Germany, etc. It is amazing to see the ‘family resemblance’ in people from everywhere on the globe, whether they are abroad or in the States.”


“I have never experienced such closeness to the Acts 2 church as I did during my time with the brothers and sisters there.”


So, today, would you consider praying for God to accomplish a couple things in your life? First, pray that God would increase your respect for the foreigner you come into contact with. And, second, pray that God would expand your Christian family with Christians from other nations, so that you might get to experience the sweet “family resemblance” of knowing Christian brothers and sisters from around the globe.

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