Stories

Lily

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.

FF

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.

Mairhaich

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.

Locard

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.

Anon

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.

Emily

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..

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.