Stories

Scottish Claire

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.

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.

paulaventura22

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.

Vicky

I was born in Argentina then I moved to Spain and grew up there. As the Spanish language has different accents, “argentinian” or better said rioplatense variation, is one of the most joked about variations in the hispanic community because of its intonation, the sound of /s/ instead of the dental /z/ from peninsular Spain or the sound of /sh/ in some words such as yerba (“sherba”). When I read any sort of text at school teachers would correct my accent, my classmates would say that they could not understand me or they would try to make me speak to laugh.

Since then, I almost suppressed my accent because as a child, it was something I felt I had to do to fit in. And now, if I’m talking and suddenly a weird intonation comes out of my mouth I have the impression that I will be “the argentinian” in the place and not just myself. I also used to feel very ashamed if my mother talked to me with her accent in front of people so I would always have an angry face if she did so. I tried to fix my accent because sadly not everyone will talk to me the same way as they would if they knew I speak “argentinian”. My hope is that this concept changes one day :).

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.

Cordobés

Mi pueblo es significativamente seseante  con ciertos rasgos de jejeo. En primer lugar, el jejeo ha sido siempre atacado y vapuleado desde los centros educativos por ser considerado «cateto, paleto y obsoleto al ser un rasgo de analfabetismo», por otro lado he visto como gente de mi generación ha sido adoctrinada por sus propios progenitores para que hicieran clara distinción entre c,z y s, con el pretexto de que ese uso diferenciado denota un mayor grado de educación, llegando algunos incluso a sentirse superiores por ser capaces de distinguir las tres letras a la hora de ser pronunciadas. Al trasladarme a Granada a estudiar, las personas horiundas de mi zona que no distinguían entre c,z y s comienzan a hacerlo desesperadamente (la distinción entre estas letras en la capital granadina ha aumentado en los últimos años de forma vertiginosa gracias al impulso de las generaciones más jovenes). Si hablamos ya de mis experiencias propias fuera de Andalucía he tenido que soportar (junto con otros amigos procedentes de provincias como Sevilla o Cádiz) la provocación de ciertos individuos que de repente deciden que les apetece insultar a los andaluces por analfabetos, por tener una dicción incomprensible y ser una vergüenza para el resto de españoles en el extranjero. No obstante, he de resaltar que la opinión de los amigos extranjeros sobre nuestro acento está en las antípodas: al hablar en inglés suelen decir que tenemos un acento andaluz precioso, atractivo, interasente e incluso que nuestro uso del seseo tiene «musicalidad» y es único. Espero que los fervientes castellanos nunca se enteren de este dato último, vaya que de repente el acento andaluz pase de ser horrible a una maravilla española y olé.

Maiko

Hablando de tener acento andaluz y de cómo, al hablar mucho por teléfono en el trabajo, trataba de neutralizar un poco el acento para que me entendieran mejor:

«Pero entonces, si sabes hablar bien, ¿por qué hablas así?»

No se me olvidará en la vida.

Valérie

Je suis du sud ouest de la France et je me souviens d’une visite dans un musée parisien avec mes élèves anglais (à ce moment-là, j’étais prof en Angleterre). Je suis allée à la consigne du musée pour voir si les élèves pouvaient y laisser leurs sacs à dos.

La jeune femme ne me comprenait pas ou à peut-être voulu se payer ma tête. Je me suis donc mise à parler anglais et lui ai demandé de parler à sa chef. Quand elle a entendu mon accent en anglais, elle n’a plus su quoi faire. Très humiliant, dans ton propre pays…