“Oww.. she has a Mallu accent!!” This is a common statement I have heard about anyone from Kerala. And the people who make this comment, normally, are not from Kerala as you can imagine. We are going to understand why this becomes a big deal, or whether this is actually a big deal.

In the first place, I have never understood the coinage “Mallu”. I have known quite a lot of Malayalis who have gone, at least for a short stint, somewhere out of Kerala. And a number of them have the problem of getting an inferiority complex about the fact that they are from Kerala. I am not sure of the reason for this though. They put on a fake accent and try to mask the so-called MTI (mother tongue influence) any normal Malayali is prone to have. And these, I guess, are the ones who came up first with the word “Mallu”. Probably it sounded hep and cool to them, rather than saying they are “Malayalis”. For any Malayalam-loving Malayali, like me, this coinage is totally irritating and unnecessary.

Being a Malayali, there definitely would be some MTI that comes from Malayalam. But the same holds true for any person having any other regional language as mother tongue. As I tell my trainees, for Keralites it is the ever-famous o-eu sound confusion “I hurt my nooose” or “I am very haaappy”. For Bengalis, it could be the “bhery happy”. For Punjabis, it could be “ditaaailse”. For a lot of North Indians, it could be “Ismart” or “sesan” (session) or “ujer”. For the South Indian crowd it is normally the “aaato”and “ofter”. For the Mumbaikars and Delhiites, I have noticed a sing-song tune sometimes – “You knoooow what haaappeeeneddd. Thurty people caaaame”.

However, the “Mallu accent” is given so much of hype that it ticks me off totally sometimes. Especially when it comes from people who have a thick MTI, it ticks me off even more. I sometimes feel like recording the way these people talk and playing it back to them so that they get a taste of their own medicine. I remember the time when one of my colleagues with a real MTI in tone, was talking about a Keralite associate of hers. In her excitement, she probably forgot that there is something called audience orientation when she went on to say, “Owww mannnn.. This trainee of mine has a Mallu acceeeent yaaaaaar. Radhikaaa, it’s even worse than youuuurs”. Everyone was quiet the moment she said this sentence. Probably they were waiting for my reaction. I just smiled and said “Of course I would have a so-called Mallu accent, because I am a Malayali. And I don’t think that is something I should feel bad about”. And then there was a desperate effort at saving the situation from the heroine of the story when she said “No no no.. I don’t think you have a Mallu accent at aaaallll”. 😛

Now whichever state you belong to, or whichever mother tongue you have, you will definitely have some or the other aspect of MTI. Beyond a limit, I accept this can affect the clarity of speech as well. However, this is something that you cannot get rid of completely in a short span of time. And that is perfectly fine. Because if you know how to speak confidently with proper content and structuring of ideas, a little bit of MTI is not a big deal at all. At least, that is what I have observed as a Soft Skills Trainer till date. I say it from my own experience as well, being a person who can communicate well, although I have my tinges of Malayali MTI coming in at times.