I was at the park with my son this week-end, guiding him with slide etiquette and safety (wait for your turn, don't stand at the bottom of the slide where you can get knocked off your feet by kids coming down...) when someone said: "Do I hear an American voice?" - That was a lady from North Carolina, talking to me. Me. The American voice. Talk about being knocked off your feet!
This is especially significant for me on several levels.
a/ I spent my first few years in DC trying really hard to avoid speaking with an Amerian accent. I listened to Clare FM on a daily basis and checked myself every time I opened my mouth. Of course, you can only keep that up for so long, so in the end I just gave in and accepted the fact that if I was going to live in DC, at some point I would have to walk the walk and talk the talk.
b/ in spite of all that, being a non-native speaker, there is no getting entirely rid of your foreign accent. Other non-native speakers may not catch it, but natives usually can tell you're not from here. So, being mistaken for a native is flattering in a way - some kind of recognition that you've achieved true blending, you've succeeded to adapt and fit in! I am especially sensitive about that now that we're back because I want my son - who is an American citizen - to be in touch with American culture, language and values. I am nervous that even after seven years I am still too foreign to pass enough of that on to him. Now, I wonder whether this other Mom is puzzled over the fact that after 10 years in France, a French woman sounded American to her.
Anyway, that was an interesting encounter with another multicultural Mom.