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I’m scared of gaining an American accent when I speak Japanese. To somebody who doesn’t speak Japanese, it’s harder to pick up. There are certain mouth shapes, certain cadences, certain tongue placements that sound like the difference between a native speaker and a foreigner. I used Japanese my whole childhood, having been sent to Japanese weekend school begrudgingly every Saturday from kindergarten through high school. But like many bilingual children, I’ve fallen into the habit of responding to my mother’s Japanese with English. It’s a strange and admittedly terrifying feeling that the words are all so familiar, but feel so foreign when they come out of my mouth. 

As someone who looks outwardly more black than Asian, I often feel the need to prove my “Asianness” in Asian settings. I can’t help but feel like losing my “proof” of being Japanese is like losing a piece of myself.

—Elliot





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