I grew up in the United States, living in New York for all 18 years of my life. Raised by a Korean household, I learned Korean in my home and learned English at school. However, I always found myself leaning towards English as the more comfortable language. In my home, I talked to family members in Korean and rarely used any other means of communication. Preschool/elementary school and media, such as the television and radio, were primarily my only sources of learning English. Although I used the Korean language more frequently, as I was at home more often than not, I gradually adjusted to the English language in a better fashion; the grammar seemed simpler and the vocabulary was easier to digest. In the current day, I consider myself proficient in English and a little lacking in Korean. Whereas I am completely fluent in English, I always find that I stumble in Korean pronunciation and not knowing several phrases/words when I am talking to other Korean speakers. Due to this, I consider only English to be my native language and Korean to be my second language.
New Yorkers have always been known to have distinct pronunciations. This is considered a regional dialect because it is restricted to a specific area -- New York, under these circumstances. As a child, I grew up in Queens but moved to Long Island when I was in kindergarten. After a while, I moved back to New York City and I have been residing in the same location for nearly 11 years. Although I am a native New Yorker, I don’t believe I can say that I have all the characteristics of its dialect. Some prominent features of this dialect include the low-back merger and the different pronunciations between marry, Mary, and merry. Whereas older generations may still have these aspects in their speaking patterns, I noticed that I do not. The low-back merger is also known as the cot-caught merger, where both terms are pronounced in a similar fashion. In New York, these two words are pronounced different, where the latter’s vowel is pronounced in a more rounded fashion. However, in the present day, I found myself saying these two terms in the same manner -- where both have the same vowel pronunciation as the words cod or frog. Additionally, where New Yorkers articulate the words marry, Mary, and merry in three different ways, I find that I cannot agree with this. I grew up pronouncing marry and Mary in the same way, but ‘merry’ in a whole different fashion; marry and Mary would rhyme with Larry, but merry would rhyme with berry.
However, although I do not identify with the phonology of the New York dialect, I find myself frequently using terminology/lexicon primarily used in this area. For example, terms such as brick (very cold outside) and mad (used instead of ‘very’ or ‘really’) have made their way into my vocabulary without my realization. Additionally, with the usage of syntax, I see myself posing inquiries in sentences even if that were not my intention. Instead of telling a friend ‘He wanted to know when could we come over’, I would instead say ‘He wanted to know when we could come over’. This usage of unintended questions is common in New Yorkers; despite my lack of their phonology, I would still consider myself possessing a New York dialect because of my usage of lexicon/syntax.
I have never had anyone comment on my New York dialect. This is most likely because I do not possess the most obvious factor of the dialect -- the phonology. Whenever I travel to a different location, I find myself self-conscious because of my lexicon. The terminology I use may not have the same meaning in a different area, which makes me wary and cautious of my vocabulary. Therefore, because of this, I find myself being more careful with my words whenever I am in a foreign place. However, if I had the choice of changing my dialect, I would decide not to. I take pride in having a New York dialect (although I don’t possess all the factors) and embrace this part of me.