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The Leadership Conference Education Fund

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Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Education, Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program.

Issue/Question:
The other day my daughter and I were at the grocery store. While we were checking out I struck up a conversation with the man at the register, who had a thick accent. My 4-year-old daughter started to laugh and said the man sounded "funny." I was very embarrassed and didn't know what to say.

Suggested Response:

Instead of being embarrassed by a situation like this one, use it as a "teachable moment." Explain to your daughter that you understand why the man sounds different from her and that's because he has an accent. Tell her that people who learn another language first often say words differently from those who learn English first. Help your daughter think about the advantages of people being able to speak more than one language. It will also be important you tell your daughter that describing how the man talks as "funny" might hurt his feelings and we never want to hurt anyone's feelings. Remember not to ignore comments like this or trivialize them by encouraging your daughter not to notice the man's accent. This implies that something is wrong with the way the man is speaking and begins to send your child negative messages about diversity.
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