Emily

I went to Newcastle university studying biology. Ironically, even though it is one of the most northern cities in England, the majority of people who attend the university come from down south, in the typical well off areas like Surrey for example. So they speak very ‘posh’. I myself am from Bolton, think a Peter Kay type accent.

One day we were in labs doing a practical. I actually ended up graduating from that degree the top of my class, so I knew what I was doing that day. I saw a group of students clearly struggling, so I went over and offered my help. I said something along the lines of ‘hey guys, do you want me to show you how to do this bit? It’s pretty easy once you get the knack of it!’… their response was ‘well, you’re not going to know how to do it are you?’  I was quite taken aback, and wondered why they thought that. I’d never spoken to them before but seen them around in class. I asked why not, and one replied ‘just listen to you!’ And the others laughed. Again, quite shocked, I asked why. They replied ‘do they even have labs where you come from?’, insinuating from my accent that I clearly wasn’t from a posh town like them and my area isn’t well off etc. Well, I just let them get on with it, doing it wrong. I’m sure I heard they ended up failing that class..

Padraig

I was born in Perth Scotland to Irish parents who were both native speakers of Ulster dialect Irish (Gaelic). I  have lived in Co Donegal, Ireland from the age of two years until I was just past my sixteenth birthday. During this time I spoke Irish (as above) and English in equal measures.

I worked in London from 1988 to 1998 and during that time I had two curious experiences with accent.

The first was when I had recently arrived in London and lived in Walthamstow, a lady at Ilford railway station told me in answer to some enquiry I had made ‘I am afraid I do not understand a word from you’, to which I replied ‘Madam your accent is as foreign to me as mine is to you’.

The other incident concerned a lady who worked in the same building as me and who was from the Isle of Lewis , Scotland but had acquired a passable London accent. When she one day introduced me to her parents who were visiting from Scotland. Her mother said ‘He speaks just like us’ they were Scots Gaidhlig speakers. but we spoke to each other only in English.

Anon

I was educated in a private school and speak almost with RP; however, throughout my whole life I have received comments like ‘who do you think you are with that accent’ and ‘you can’t be from Newcastle’.

Shelley

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.

Maggie

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!

Lyric

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.

Anon

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?

Samantha

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.

2nd Lieutenant America

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.

Belinda

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.