I feel awful when talking to people at times. I am Scottish and love being so. But being from a town very close to the border between Scotland and England, I find my accent is dependent on my situation.
I grew up in a very small town in Scotland close to the border to England. I feel, because of the proximity, my hometown accent is VERY pronounced to make sure people are aware we are Scottish. When I moved to go to University and came back to visit my parents, my dad told me ‘for God’s sake Louise, speak Scottish’ where I thought I was. But I wasn’t speaking in my natural dialect. This is when I realised I adapt my accent to where I am, very easily and unintentionally.
Then I began thinking about when I meet Irish people. I live in the west of Scotland and there are a lot of people in Stranraer, also in the west of Scotland that have almost ‘Belfastian?’ And I take on an Irish accent when speaking to people from Ireland. I’m not being, or trying to be offensive it just changes.
My partner’s grandmother is from Barbados and I have taken in saying ‘it’s a-boat time’ instead of ‘about’ and it’s not out of taking the piss but because I love the pronunciation.
I love doing accents and can do them very well, but also can speak German fluently.
My partner has lived in Lancaster, Scotland and London however and I cannot imitate his accent at all! But when he is speaking very northern ‘lancastarian’ I find myself copying him haha!
Just wanted to hear other people’s stories of accents changing 😊
I was the only student with a Birmingham accent when studying English at the University of Birmingham (yes, Birmingham) way back in the 90s and didn’t I know it! I ended up turning the tables, though, and wrote my dissertation, Masters and PhD on attitudes towards Birmingham English. The last chapter of my PhD thesis (Birmingham English: A Sociolinguistic Study) discusses the effects of language discrimination and argues that this form of prejudice is no less harmful than any other. At the time, Wales (2000) was about the only reference to ‘accentism’ that I could find, so it is heartening to see that the term is now in more widespread use but disheartening to see that so many young people are still suffering from it (https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/oct/24/its-had-a-lasting-impact-students-on-being-bullied-over-their-accents).
I still get the odd double take and supercilious comment even today when people hear me speak and see my title. Obviously, for some, Dr + Brummie still do not add up!
Wales, K. 2000. ‘North and South: A Linguistic Divide?’ in English Today 16(01): 4-15.
I grew up in the north so i have a northern accent but my dad and my auntie were brought up to speak ‘proper English’. My auntie would constantly be telling me how to say certain words like ‘baf’ instead of ‘bath’ or ‘half parst’ instead of ‘half past’. She would say the way i spoke sounded ‘common’ and ‘unprofessional’ which really annoyed me cause i couldn’t help it. Luckily people around me had the same accent as me so it didn’t bother me too much.
I’m from the Black Country but have lived almost 40 years in Hampshire, I spent some time in school in Hants as well as much of my adult life. While I no longer speak with a strong accent it has marked me out as someone to laugh at or simply actively hate. Sitting miffed in interviews with people laughing so hard whenever I spoke they couldn’t catch breath. I’ve been asked if I know who my father is and received a long letter suggesting I never again aspire to anything due to my background, I’ve been refused service in shops, banks and cafes and graded downwards despite coming equal to or better than other peers. It still can be a daily issue to have someone somewhere remind me I’m a Midlander… I sometimes thank them for letting me know as it’s easy to forget without the constant reminders… always with a twinkle. The idea, it seems from some, is to bring me down a few pegs, put me back in that box from which I wriggled.
None of my schools nor FEs expected anything of me, nor offered support, the educators were in some respects actively hostile. Similarly I’ve had employers apologise to visitors in advance for anything I may do and say on the basis that I come from the Midlands… and I was never ever allowed to represent any organisation I have been involved in… just in case it’s infectious maybe?
Many have suggested elocution lessons and moving back to the Midlands despite having spent most of my life in the South East. I recall one director filming where I worked saying I was a long way from home, I didn’t catch on immediately since this is my home so I said no I just live across the water… he looked confused, I caught on and laughed and explained (I’ve thought about having leaflets printed it happens so often)
What really gets to some people is that I’m not ashamed of being a Midlander in any way shape for form, yes it’s a different culture to here. I now sound very posh (according to the Midlanders) when I travel back there to visit relatives so I’m neither fish nor fowl really. I like both areas and people, not everyone means it badly and those that do tend to regret it when they find their friends laughing at them when I tease them back.
All in all, like many of my fellow Midlanders, I’m a well read, auto didact with a dry sense of humour and a friendly manner. I must be a serious challenge to prejudices if I have them working so hard to try and make me feel bad about myself… but I am the only one with that power over me, perhaps one day more people will understand that and accents will become an interesting difference rather than an object of hate and ridicule.
My experience isn’t necessarily about my accent specifically, however it is about the way I speak.
I have a lisp and have done for my entire life as far as I’m aware. It’s not something I like about myself, but those I know and associate with never seem to have any trouble with it and have never mentioned it. However, there have been two incidents where it has, apparently, been a problem.
The first I want to talk about is one I didn’t know about until a few months ago when my mum was asked about my lisp. When I first started school, bearing in mind I was 4 years old, my mum was contacted regarding the possibility of speech therapy for me because, according to the person who contacted her, no-one could understand what I was saying. My mum was confused about this, and rightly so considering my best friend of two years at the time was Indian and struggled with English had no issues with the way I spoke, so she went to my class teacher. She was equally confused and told my mum that everything was fine with the way I spoke. I have no idea who it was that told my mum all that, but clearly they were only going on their own experience with me and hadn’t spoken to anyone else about it!
In comparison, this second story is incredibly mild. When I started secondary school, I was the only person from my primary school in that year group. I had an okay working relationship with the boys who sat around me in my science class and I was always happy to help either of them if they needed it. One lesson we were doing work about hypothetical samples of something from different regions. One of those regions was Cheshire, which one of the guys couldn’t work out. I tried to help him out, of course, but my lisp means that I pronounce ‘ch’ as an odd variation of ‘j’, so he had no idea what I was trying to say. I think I ended up confusing him even more by giving up and telling him it was “the name of the cat from Alice In Wonderland”! Luckily, the other guy realised how much trouble this was causing and told him. But I think that was the incident that made me realise how prominent my lisp was and ended with me being incredibly conscious of it even until this day.
Being from the South of Ireland working in England I take advantage of my accent. I’ve noticed a trend in that older women especially seem to like it and ask me to say ’33’ and then tell me ‘I could listen to you all night’. When I was out one night this lad said I sounded Jamaican! Then when I joined a rugby club the lads thought I was a plumber/tradesman/policeman [due to my accent] only to reveal to their surprise that I am a Uni Professor. Having a different accent has been overall positive for me. After a lecture once, I had someone ask a question for the sake of hearing my voice. The British really seem to like it.. It’s an icebreaker in conversations and makes the ladies smile 🙂
Pronouncing lichen. I am a white British migrant living in Australia. Here, I hear people pronounce lichen as in ‘liken’ whereas I pronounce lichen as in ‘kitchen’. I looked this up online and it turns out both are used but that the ‘kitchen’ pronunciation is ‘an uneducated British pronunciation’.
I am a white British migrant living in Australia. Some years ago, I had an odd experience on an arts residency in China, where during a meal another visiting artist, a white Australian, criticised me for ‘still’ sounding British. She commented that most British people living in Australia ‘lost’ their accents after just a few months. This was particularly odd to hear amongst all the accents around the table with Chinese as the most audible language.
I have noticed in the last 20 years (I am nearly 53) regional accents become a lot more acceptable. I got ridiculed for my (not that strong but distinctive) Scottish accent in London in the eighties and also at uni in Edinburgh. I hadn’t met the very rich before that and it was a shock. I was into drama but after feeling isolated among the RP speakers I didn’t return to a group and stopped acting altogether. They seemed to think that anyone with any kind of regional accent was extremely poor and lower working class. There was a clear class divide at the university.
As a student at school I was mocked by the more strong accented kids (in Fife) and told I had been sent to elocution lessons by my mum which was incorrect. There seemed to be a thing about talking as broad as possible to avoid being called a snob (inverted snobbery). I have been told several times I sound like Kirsty Wark and am happy with this. I now live in West Yorkshire and have adopted some of that dialect but never lost my Scottish accent.
Not so long ago, like a half a year ago i met a guy which mother tongue was english and even though he was italian he had a good level of english. Of course, we speaked in english as he wasn’t able to speak spanish and i wanted to be his friend and improve my english as well.
As my mother tongue is spanish and not english is obvious i made some grammatical or vocabulary mistakes when i had to talk with him and when that kind of mistakes happened instead of helping me and explaining me kindly how could i correct them easily, he kept saying i wasn’t able to speak english correctly, that i had a poor level of english or joking about my english which kind of annoyed me because he should understand that english is not my mother tongue and i’m not used to talk it all the time and also that i was trying my best to improve it by talking with him.
When i was fed up i kindly asked him if he could help me when i make those kind of mistakes by correcting me or explaining me how some words are pronounced.
He ended up apologizing because he didnt meant to offend me and he helped when it came to those problems i had with the language.