Stories

Charles

I have experienced prejudice in English, Welsh, Gaelic, Polish, French, Spanish, and Italian. The one experience I want to share, though, was not in response to a minority, regional, or foreign linguistic variety – plenty of those – but in response to my near-RP accent. I would say I have a Welsh accent, but it’s very “mild”, so it’s not always detectable to people who don’t have RP accents. On a number of occasions, I have had Anglophobic comments, but I was once screamed at by a girl in Glasgow whilst I was on the phone. “F*** off back to England!”, she screamed as I spoke to a close friend walking past Kelvinhall station on my mobile phone. It was very intimidating and upsetting. I feel that there is a lot of aggression towards the RP accent in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Perhaps not unsurprising considering the complex history on these islands – but not really fair on individuals.

Madeleine

Undergrad at York, during phonetics tutorials one awful guy kept asking me to repeat words in my hilarious Cheshire accent (nuts, cup, bus etc) – are you studying linguistics because you talk weird, did they close all the coal mines back home etc. More fool him it was actually SALT mines in my town not coal…ha!…now after PhD I have had comments at networking events about ‘doing very well for yourself considering…’

Natsumi

‘I did not expect THAT!’ – Reaction over an American accent coming from an Asian girl.

‘How is your English so good?’ – Presumption that my native language can’t be English.

‘No, you ARE American’ – This guy started a fight over this, convinced he knew me better.

Louise

It wasn’t until I got my Masters in Linguistics that I felt I could speak in my accent in professional settings. That qualification is the only ammunition I have when I’m faced with classist attitudes.

Sta

Because I sound so American, it always strikes me when people start correcting my English only after they find out I am not a native speaker and actually from South Asia. Seems I speak it ‘like a native’ but only till they figure out my passport. Then it’s a giveaway.

Anon

I’m from Stoke on Trent. In one of my first seminars at university, I answered a question for the lecturer and a girl sat behind me said ‘that girl’s accent makes me feel sick’ (she didn’t even try to whisper). I’ve received a lot of prejudice at University mainly for my accent and dialect. Even certain lecturers have mocked the way I pronounce words, such as ‘book’ with a rather fronted GOOSE vowel, as opposed to the more standard STRUT/FOOT vowel for this word.

Mike

When I moved to London, age 16, in the 70s, my Cardiff accent was constantly ridiculed to the point where I resolved to ‘clean up’ my speech. I no longer have my accent. Regret it massively.

Anastasia

I was presenting my research at a conference in Cambridge University a few years back. It was a great success and at the end of the questions section my supervisor – A British bully with major stammering issues- told me to ‘stop talking because my accent annoyed him’….

Jack

I grew up in the South East, in and around Royal Tunbridge Wells.  I went to university up north and uni friends, housemates and course-mates (vast majority Northerners) would often remark on the way I pronounced things, particularly the classics like ‘grass’ and ‘bath’.  One person would repeat the word/phrase in an over-done RP accent and the rest of the group (including me, most of the time) would get a bit of a giggle out of it.  People would often assume I had loads of money and my family were landed gentry or Viscounts or something.

I went to the ‘second’ university in the town (an ex-polytechnic) and, interestingly, people I met who didn’t know that, would assume that I went to the ‘primary’ university in the town, renowned for being (better) and with higher entry requirements.

Definitely found myself inadvertently adopting a bit of a Northern twang by the time I got to third year!

Enrique

My best friend is from Menorca. Her native language is Catalan. We both went to uni in Barcelona. The Catalan variety of Menorca is quite different from Barcelona’s, which is considered “the standard”. She had to give a presentation for a pragmatics course. After she gave the presentation, one of the FOUNDERS of the linguistics department (first linguistics department in Spain) told her: “you probably did very good, but I didn’t understand much”. I (and the rest of the students) understood her perfectly fine.