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 am currently studying to be a speech and language therapist in the south of England. I noticed during my phonetics classes that there was no teaching on the vowels and allophones used in my accent (or any that weren’t RP). When I questioned my lecturer she responded she’d never considered it, didn’t think it was relevant and wouldn’t be useful.
I was a child growing up in a rough part of Croydon and attending a normal local primary school. Because my parents were immigrants, they encouraged my sister and me to ‘speak properly’, so I wasn’t allowed to speak like the other kids even if I’d wanted to. As a result, I was bullied for the way I spoke. However, now, I fully acknowledge that my RP accent is more likely to get me places in life than if I spoke with a Cockney accent, and this is unjust. I even take issue with the phrase ‘well-spoken’, which basically means middle- to upper-class RP and nothing else, and it’s an erasive and discriminatory term that reinforces negative stereotypes of people with all different types of accents, as if they’re automatically idiots because they don’t speak with a BBC newsreader accent.
I have experienced prejudice in English, Welsh, Gaelic, Polish, French, Spanish, and Italian. The one experience I want to share, though, was not in response to a minority, regional, or foreign linguistic variety – plenty of those – but in response to my near-RP accent. I would say I have a Welsh accent, but it’s very “mild”, so it’s not always detectable to people who don’t have RP accents. On a number of occasions, I have had Anglophobic comments, but I was once screamed at by a girl in Glasgow whilst I was on the phone. “F*** off back to England!”, she screamed as I spoke to a close friend walking past Kelvinhall station on my mobile phone. It was very intimidating and upsetting. I feel that there is a lot of aggression towards the RP accent in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Perhaps not unsurprising considering the complex history on these islands – but not really fair on individuals.
I was once marked down by a lecturer in Austria for speaking with a Yorkshire accent instead of RP in an EFL class. English is not my native language. Now I have a Welsh accent from when I did my PhD in dialectology at Swansea University. I’m proud of it.