I am currently in a relationship with someone who is very well off, upper middle class has a lovely big house a holiday home in Italy, nice cars, went to expensive private schools the lot! I am from an ordinary background went to state school, both my parents were born on council estates in Leeds and were the first in their families to go to university. My parents are teachers which has put me in an awkward class dynamic where I have been able to mix with people from all social and class backgrounds.
My boyfriend is from an upper middle class family and although born in Yorkshire both of his parents insist him and his sister speak with Received Pronunciation, which is ridiculous if you ask me anyway. When I am at their house they constantly try and challenge his accent and pronunciation even though he is 25 years old. He has a very neutral accent but says certain words such as “bath” like a northerner rather than “barrrrrrthh” like a southerner. The mother in particular corrects him and his younger sister in front of me (who has a Yorkshire accent, not massively broad but it’s definitely there) frequently.
I feel judged a lot, because it makes me feel as if I am inferior and that I am of a lower standard. There have been occasions when I have said something to his younger sister in my accent and she has repeated it to her mum, who has responded by correcting her in-front of me! There have been countless times when this has happened but if anything it’s made me talk with a broader accent just to make her tick, as she is very sly in how she try’s to tell me I am not speaking proper. She is also very direct to her son which is even worse.
I moved to a a Scottish university in the early nineties. I’m from Lancashire. My course was a mix of students but with a large contingent of Southern English, middle class folk. On the first day of seminar – my first utterance was greeted with a smirk and ‘that’s champion!’ by a fellow student from the South. It was clear that there was a need to patronise the simple northerner. My intellect was suspect- easily dismissed.
More recently I live in London. My accent has migrated. I still confuse the baristas in coffee shops who can’t understand my order or my name unless I put on my best RP. I tried to help my daughter with her phonics homework but it struck me that some sounds were tricky as my suggestions were greeted with a snort of derision. She argued that ‘what might be right in Lancashire isn’t right here’. She is correct. I’m a phonics failure. My accent fails to hide my roots. The phonics in the National curriculum taught assumes standard English – RP. This seems hugely discriminatory for regional dialects/ accents.
As the Head of Department at an English University I was asked to tone down my Scottish accent during the visit of the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) as it could be off-putting. As I was seconded to the QAA for 12 days a year this was ironic.
I was also recently asked in an organisation set up by the Scottish Government but headed up primarily by English managers to speak more ‘English.’ This same organisation, set up to collect the stories of Scots, refused to collect them in Scottish.
I am a Scottish Msc student at an English university in the South of England. During the mere month or so I have been here I have already had many an occasion of English students on campus and locals in the pubs thinking it’s perfectly acceptable to pull out tired old ‘och aye jimmies’ and ‘braw moonlicht nicht the nichts’. The refrain ‘Why cant you just speak normal English like everyone else?’ has also been heard from someone in my department during a night out. These same people recoil as if burnt when challenged on the matter, not seeming to understand that those from another country within the UK could possibly have another accent or language. How could that ever be possible in Greater England?
Most obviously have no malice behind these exchanges; however, it is at best lazy discrimination of those they share the United Kingdom with.
I am a Welsh MSc student studying at a Welsh uni. One time in class a fellow student announced to the whole class that I sounded ‘really really Welshy’ and that she ‘had a dream where I was standing at the front of the class giving a lecture sounding really Welshy’.
The student seemed very amused when telling the class this. I felt uncomfortable at what she said. I could not imagine announcing to a whole class of students, for example, how really really African one of the students sounded! Especially if I was in Africa!
This later led to me (along with other factors not related to uni life) writing a withdrawal letter.
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..
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.
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’.
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!