University of Chicago
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I speak Czech with an accent. Even as a young child, I noticed a distinct difference between my choppy pronunciation and the smooth, oblong consonants of native-born speakers. While the speech of my extended family is peppered with idioms, slang, and unique expressions, I simply struggle to conjugate my possessives. Seeing as how I have been surrounded with the twangy tones of English my entire life, such a development isn't a surprise. Nevertheless, I would be lying if I said I was expecting a complete stranger to see through me in an instant. We had laid our towels near each other on the gritty beach of the swimming hole by my grandfather’s house, and I had barely managed a simple greeting before he began marveling at my quirky American accent. Though I tried to laugh it off, I couldn’t quell the shame burning bright in my cheeks. Was I so separated from my culture that a single word was enough to mark me as an outsider? I didn't grow up in the Czech Republic. Though I did muddle my way through nine years of Czech education, memorizing the seven cases of declension and the nation's path to independence from the Hapsburg Empire in pursuit of a primary school diploma, I never once sat in a classroom and clamored along with the...
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