I am an undergraduate at the University of Oxford. I have a strong accent, as I come from Bradford. Since arriving at university, where the vast majority of people’s voices ring with the supposedly dulcet tones of RP, I have constantly experienced problems due to my accent. I have been asked to ‘speak properly’ by tutors when speaking in tutorials. I have been mocked by other students due to my pronunciation of certain words. I have been told that I will never get a job if I do not allow my accent to ‘mellow’- i.e. conform. In a progress meeting with tutors, I was told that my presenting skills needed work. I am a confident and skilled presenter: they just couldn’t understand or wouldn’t try to understand my accent.
My husband is from the south east and I am from a northern coastal town. He HATES my accent. At first, I think he thought it was novel and interesting, but now he corrects at least one word from every sentence I utter. My pronunciation of grass/bath is often the target, but recently the way I (have always) not emphasised a ‘t’ at the end of a word absolutely disgusts him. It’s a big issue.
I haven’t experienced this sort of accent annoyance before – I attended a ‘middle class’ university (according to the dean in our welcome speech) and other students found me difficult to understand, or would laugh at everything I said, assuming northerners were all comedians… but no one was ever insulting or derogatory about it to my face. In fact, some of my tutors would make an effort to encourage me to speak and one in particular, who also had a northern accent, would compliment me on the ‘correct’ pronunciation of words!
I was 9 in 1980 when I moved from Barcelona to Flix, a small village in Tarragona where a different variety of Catalan is spoken. In the beginning I was made to read out loud from the books in school because my accent was ‘better’ than theirs. It didn’t take me long to pick up the local accent and vocabulary.
A year later I moved back to Barcelona and started in a new school, where I was laughed at until I lost the non standard accent.
A dementia client who has a northern accent is spoken to by a southern nurse.
The nurse uses a fake sounding northern accent each time during communication.
Is the dementia client being patronised?
One of my lecturers (in TESOL!) asked me ‘why does your voice keep going up at the end like that? I can’t tell when you’re asking a question’ and then kind of smirked. This was in front of the whole class in the middle of a lecture. Super embarrassing and frustrating. English isn’t my first language and uptalk is something I’ve apparently adopted without realising.
My son’s American accent was relentlessly (and badly) mocked and imitated in his secondary schools here in London, and it made him absolutely miserable. This naturally made the other kids do it more. He has taken badly against the country as a whole as a result – a stereotyping overreaction in itself. Prejudice begets prejudice. He hates it here and can’t wait to be old enough to move away.
I know lots of people on here might think this is ridiculous, but I was badly bullied at school for sounding ‘posh’. Do, next time you think an RP accent is a privilege and a ticket, think again. It made me miserable.
I went to Oxford university in the 90s from a state comp in the home counties. I had never really met anyone who had a different accent from my own so (like many people, I now know), assumed I had ‘no accent’. As soon as I arrived there, I was ridiculed for my accent and told I was an ‘Essex girl’ by my mainly middle class privately and grammar-educated peers (actually I spoke something like Estuary English, I guess). I remember sitting next to a professor one evening who expressed amazement to meet someone with a regional southern accent at dinner. I was told that it was sad that I sounded so awful in English while my French accent was beautiful (I was studying languages). This deeply affected me and I gradually began cleansing my speech and assimilating. It makes me sad that I felt that I had to do that. I now sound just like those people who ridiculed me. I had a couple of friends (also from comps), who did not lose their regional accents and continued to be victimised. Interestingly, it seemed to be better for people with Welsh or Scottish accents which were somehow classless.
Mine started a long time ago. When I started at Oxford in the late 80s someone told me, ‘You can’t possibly be studying English at Oxford with an accent like that!’ This came hot on the heels of a teacher at a study week telling me ‘The northern accent is generally associated with being thick.’ I now teach on the outskirts of Birmingham and it’s lovely listening to some of my A level language students who are really proud of their accent despite the prejudice they encounter. Same kind of things I was getting back then.
I recently taught a class observed by half a dozen teacher trainees – a regular occurrence, as I’m one of the more qualified and experienced staff at my place of work. Afterwards I welcomed questions from the trainees, the first of which was “Where did you learn to speak English so well? You can hardly tell you’re not from here, well done.” I wish I could say it was the first time someone has congratulated me on not sounding like where I come from, as if it was my biggest life achievement. I’m Polish by birth but have been speaking English since preschool and living in the UK for over a decade. I’m so fed up with the “where are you from” questions that unless I risk being rude, I avoid giving a direct answer. I also tell my students their accent is their identity and they should be proud of it.