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My mom was the first in our family to graduate college—henceforth ruining my chances of first year student scholarships—and the only one to receive a degree, despite being the second oldest of six and the only daughter.

She studied accounting for four years until she had to change her major to elementary education. She worked for a major company in the Philippines until we moved to the United States. She’s smart, dedicated, loving and so many other adjectives but few will know this because they can’t see who she is beyond her accent.

Even though English is a language everyone in the Philippines has to learn, there are many people who have very thick accents when they speak English. My mom is no exception to this.

When she speaks, it’s very obvious that English is her second language. Most of the time, when she needs to talk to someone, especially someone important, I have to be the one to talk to the person or make the phone call. I have to talk to people for her because she knows people won’t understand her because of her accent.

Despite being born in another country and speaking English as a second language, I don’t have an accent like my mom does. This is because I had to adapt due to being bullied for not speaking the national language of the United States. I continued to practice and learn English until I no longer had an accent when speaking, but I shouldn’t have had to do this.

My mom shouldn’t have to try hard to make people see her as a person and not just a foreigner. No one with an accent and English as their second language should have to go through the pain of feeling like an outsider and feeling like no one understands them.

Instead of people focusing on the fact they can’t understand someone with an accent, they should focus on trying to take the time to understand what that person is saying. They should accept that a foreign person is still a person who needs to be treated kindly.

We’re all human and it’s time to start treating others the way we want to be treated no matter the differences in language, ethnicities or birth location.