Stories

Maggie

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!

Lyric

I was 9 in 1980 when I moved from Barcelona to Flix, a small village in Tarragona where a different variety of Catalan is spoken. In the beginning I was made to read out loud from the books in school because my accent was ‘better’ than theirs. It didn’t take me long to pick up the local accent and vocabulary.

A year later I moved back to Barcelona and started in a new school, where I was laughed at until I lost the non standard accent.

Liz

So I am northern Italian, which is already a bit of a strange accent for Italy (long vowels, many consonants fall, etc.), then I moved to England and lived first in Yorkshire where my best friend is from, and then in Oxford, but with two Irishmen and a Scot in the house, and then I met my future husband who is a Welshman raised in Norfolk. The result? After four years in England, I developed what has been recently defined by a friend of mine a ‘Eurotrash’ accent, with bits of Irish, Northern, Scot pronunciation scattered here and there across my fake-RP.

That said, I love English Northern pronunciation and every day that passes I am more and more tempted to ditch the stupid RP and just go for my northern mash!

Lily

I’m a French academic who has recently relocated to Belfast. Visiting friends in England recently, I was joking about starting to have a Northern Irish accent, especially when I say Belfast. The Englishman opposite me said “this has to be avoided at all cost”.

Mrs Sandra Hinton

I am from the Black Country. Yes, everyone thinks that I am a Brummie but you know different.

However, the accent to an outsider is very much the same.

I have moved from a working class area to quite a posh area and I was actually asked once ‘Oh, you live in Hagley…..?’ err Yes, I know where I live (my accent does not reflect my social status….How can I possibly live in this area….how could I possibly afford it??)

I have moved again to Malvern and if another person in Waitrose or any other shop for that matter asks me if I am on my holidays I think I will scream!! I am sure that they must send the security guard  following me as someone who speaks like me must be a shoplifter!!

So, so cross about the accentism in this town, making me out to be ugly or uneducated.

I am actually a solvent, successful business woman but I am made to feel inferior to my neighbours and fellow residents. I did think about getting ‘accent reduction’ lessons but realised if I spoke differently, I would no longer be ‘me’

What would you do?…..I want to be able to give a meaningful response when I am asked if ‘I am on my holidays’ without being rude or cross and I would like to point out that I am not ashamed that I come from a working class background. I will always feel inferior and that I do not belong because only of my accent. It is a shame to have to face discrimination every day that I shop or chat to the locals but I can’t see anything changing anytime soon.

Anon

A dementia client who has a northern accent is spoken to by a southern nurse.

The nurse uses a fake sounding northern accent each time during communication.

Is the dementia client being patronised?

Antonia

The Greek I learnt at my mother’s knee was greatly modified, at the age of 7,  when I attended primary school. It was accepted that one spoke “proper”  Greek as opposed to Cypriot Greek – heavily accented and with its own words (sometimes of Homeric origin , like λαλώ) scattered here and there.

Emigrating 18 months later to London meant attending Greek school on Saturday mornings. The great and the good at the church school would hide their Cypriot origins by trying to talk “posh” with varying rates of success.

When my daughter was born, my mother kept berating me about the Cypriot I used. It needed to be cleaned up into the accepted higher level  radio Greek.

Suffice it to say that I lost interest in imparting the language to my daughter, who, having an English father. Was happy to lapse into English only.

Subsequently, I’ve heard from Greeks in Cyprus how they don’t rate their own Cypriot accent/ dialects and chose to heap scorn in those who still use it.

What their reasons for this might be, I’ll leave to conjecture. But, for a small island under occupation by a foreign country , imposing its own culture and language and further culturally compromised  by the recent entry of Overwhelming numbers of Europeans and Russians… I would have thought that self-effacement of a great part of Cypriot cultural roots would be considered by any thinking person as cultural suicide.

Bethan

English is technically my second language. As a kid, I mainly only spoke it at home with my (English) mum. I never developed a regional accent and had RP instead. Other kids bullied me for it. In contrast, an English guy got angry that I was ‘parodying his accent’. Can’t win!

(I do recognise that RP is privileged in lots of ways, though. But it makes it tricky to negotiate your identity if you have education, work, or social life somewhere RP is uncommon.)

Samantha

One of my lecturers (in TESOL!) asked me ‘why does your voice keep going up at the end like that? I can’t tell when you’re asking a question’ and then kind of smirked. This was in front of the whole class in the middle of a lecture. Super embarrassing and frustrating. English isn’t my first language and uptalk is something I’ve apparently adopted without realising.