I grew up in social housing in Yorkshire. I loved learning and I also loved watching The Bill – a series set in a police station focused on solving crime. Going to university to study law therefore seemed like an obvious choice and I was excited to start my course at a Russell Group University.

I turned up fresh faced and enthusiastic – looking forward to my future. I was also feeling nervous and unsure whether University was a place for people like me, especially listening to my peers. It was the first time I really realised that I spoke differently – and that differently was seen by people as a bad thing.

In my first week, I met my tutor in a small group of 6-8 people. My tutor was employed by the University to support us through the course. We all introduced ourselves. My tutor told the group that if we wanted to be successful in law we must learn to speak with a “Westminster accent”. My heart sunk and I could feel my cheeks burning as I realised this must be directed at me and my regional accent… My first week and I had already been told I would not succeed.

This confirmed my suspicion University wasn’t for me and for the first term I had to resist the urge to  drop out of the course. It also really affected my confidence in my studies and socialising with my peers. I then went through a period where I consciously tried to talk “posher”.

One day, something snapped and I asked myself why I was trying so hard to be accepted by people who didn’t respect me. I stopped trying to change who I am and embraced my Yorkshire heritage – it is a huge part of my identity.

The accentism hasn’t stopped and I have so many examples, particularly as I moved to London for work after university, but I now understand there is nothing wrong with me and how I speak. It is society who has a problem and it is something which we need to raise awareness of. The UK’s diversity of regional accents is something to be proud of and celebrate!


This was a long time ago, but I’m now realising the prejudice at the heart of my experience. From the outset, it’s worth saying, I am originally from Newcastle and at the time had a much stronger Geordie accent than I do now.

When I was training to become an English teacher in Cumbria, I was delivering a lesson on Thomas Hardy’s poetry to an A Level Literature class. I was being observed by my subject mentor. During the lesson I had read out one of Hardy’s poems from the set text. In the follow up discussion the teacher questioned my reading the poem and said with a polite (not polite) laugh, “Geordies don’t do poetry do they?” She had also written these words on my lesson observation form. To be clear, she was specifically referring to the sound of Hardy’s words coming out of my mouth rather than my analysis of the poem.

Only one year later, during my first Year 9 parents evening, two parents on separate occasions made similar jibes about the irony of “Geordies teaching English”. Perhaps this is why my accent is not as strong as it used to be, something my family enjoy pointing out whenever I go home.


In Pakistan, our education system is British. here in America, the English people speak is really different from what I was taught. English being my second language, its kind of hard to adjust. What I want to highlight though, is that if I ask for something like directions to the toilet, people would respond ‘are you talking about the bathroom?’ What else would I be talking about?

At the same time, this goes for words I can’t pronounce correctly as well. if a person tells me ‘I go school’ instead of ‘I’m going to school’ I understand what they mean, but I’ve noticed a lot of people will act like they don’t get what the person meant, and some people even make fun about their improper sentence structuring.

These type of small things don’t cause much harm, but they really do annoy/ anger us on a subliminal level.


When I was growing up I was told by family that I sounded stupid because of my Geordie accent. Because I said aye instead of yes I somehow was just absolutely stupid. So even though I lived in Newcastle I tried to avoid letting my accent show no matter what. Growing up watching TV, Geordies with strong accents were always stupid on it even on children’s shows.  I want to go to a local uni because I’m scared of ridicule for my accent.


I am from Dudley in the Black Country and moved to Derbyshire when I was 8. Instantly I received comments about how I spoke and people couldn’t understand me. As a result my accent changed over time to be more ‘posh’ sounding so I could clearly get my point across. But at 17, comments are still made on how I pronounce certain sounds and I’m told I don’t say certain things correctly.

My mom and sister still have the accent and people instantly comment on how they don’t sound like me, often with a negative tone. I am unsure if it is intentional or not.

Also, when I’ve met people through friends, I have received comments such as ‘Well it’s a good thing you didn’t come with that dreadful accent’ among other hurtful comments.

At school I study English Language and it’s awful to look at the stereotypes associated with my accent.

I had a job in a cafe where there was another person from the Black Country and our boss made comments hinting that she didn’t approve of how we spoke.

I think it appalling that people think this is acceptable behaviour and that you can judge the a person’s capabilities solely on how they speak.



I came to the UK when I was quite young, I learnt English through my surroundings but also by watching a lot of Youtube videos, which ultimately made my accent more American than British.  I get a lot of comments where people are surprised that someone who’s South Asian can have an accent that’s mixed, but there’s also a lot of ruder comments, making fun of me for the way I pronounce certain things or just my accent and dialect in general.  It did make me grow to hate my accent but I think I appreciate it way more now!


My experiences have been rather different to the majority here, indeed I was not initially sure whether my experiences would fit, because they seem to be the polar opposite of what the project has predominantly showcased, but I felt that they highlight the issue, rather than detracting from it.

I had an unusually privileged upbringing, growing up with family with the Indian Army accent and  in the top end of the public school system, then attending Sandhurst.  I am resultantly eloquent and, whilst my childhood accent, which was very much Upper Received Pronunciation, has very much dulled down over the last 15 years or so, I still certainly speak with Received Pronunciation or perhaps even a ‘plummy’ accent

I am, at the same time, a pretty scruffy, long haired, portly, middle aged man with a bald spot which I am working hard to deny.  Living on the coast I often return from dog walks in a truly disreputable shape and look every inch the vagabond about town. On occasion this has lead to conversations with the local constabulary and often this elicits a poor reception in shops.  I have, however, found that the very moment I begin speaking all that goes away. It is like a magic wand which makes problems go away a lot of the time, particularly with authority.

Although this has generally made my life markedly easier in almost all scenarios, the stories here are supposed to be actual anecdotes, so I will recount an occasion where a police constable stopped myself and a friend, genuinely believing that he had just apprehended two muggers who vaguely fitted our descriptions and who had been seen running into the alley I was passing through. My chum repeatedly told the policeman that we were innocent, and remonstrated, but to no avail.  When I spoke, simply telling the officer that I was not the mugger and we had other places to be immediately had us released, with a profuse apology.

I am not going to pretend that this is not privilege and and I am not going to lie and say that it is not incredibly useful at times, but honestly I think the way that authority treats me, the ease with which I can engage prospective clients and partners and all the opportunities afforded me by my voice are not an advantage, but that the bigotry surrounding accents leads to others being disadvantaged.

That is not to say that I do not have an advantage, but rather that everyone should be afforded the same respect, trust and welcome, regardless of their accent, and regardless of whether they are wearing a dinner suit or a tracksuit.

Exiled Geordie

I’m a Geordie living in London working in a fun industry where joking around at work is the norm. Unfortunately that means my Geordie vowels eg ‘oo’ in book, and my glottal stops, are ridiculed daily! My colleague answers the phone to me with ‘why aye’. Luckily it’s an accent people love and see as friendly!


I was at a coffee machine and the man in front said I could go first as he was retired and didn’t have to go to work. He then asked what I did for a living… I said I’m an English teacher and he roared with laughter and said ‘A Scouser….teaching English!!…they’ve got no chance!’


I have a Birmingham accent and I work at a university outside of Birmingham. Someone in my office said to me that her boyfriend often works in Birmingham and when he comes home he has a horrible twang to his accent and she has to tell him to “wash his mouth out with soap”. She thought telling me this was hilarious. I didn’t even bother saying because where the heck could I start. People are so horrible about the Birmingham accent.