Growing up in Stoke, I had a very clear ‘Stokey’ accent. When I was at primary school, members of my extended family suggested to my Mum that I have elocution lessons ‘to help me get on in the world’. My Mum refused – she had a Stoke accent too and felt personally offended by their suggestion, but also because she knew that speaking differently would lead me to be outcast at school and in my community.
As it happened, we moved twenty miles away when I was ten years old and despite the short distance, the kids in my new town did *not* speak like they were from Stoke and eventually my accent was bullied out of me. Look, book, cook and mispronouncing ‘th’ soon became something that felt wrong.
By the time I attended university most people assumed I was from the South as I had adapted my accent so convincingly.
It’s interesting now, as I feel like an accent chameleon – I easily pick up words and pronunciations from others (my partner is from Hampshire and I now regularly drop the ‘h’ from the start of words). This regularly leads to humour amongst friends and family, though it makes me sad as I realise that my own accent identity is so weak that I automatically adapt to ‘fit in’.
I’m from the North East of England (born and raised) and despite my family (who are also all from the North East) and peers having strong northern accents, I don’t; and instead I have an accent that most people sight as being American. This leads to a lot of jokes between me and my friends. I’ve also grown used to people asking me about my accent and where me and my family are from. However, because of my accent being strange it quite frequently made me the target of bullying in primary and secondary school which made me extremely self conscious about the way I talk.
I used to get bullied severely all the time, for years I was treated differently from the rest of my school. Until I was moved into a different school in year 8 but, I felt safer in the new school. One day, word got out about the rumours from my last school and spread. Yet even though they bullied me badly, they twisted it to my Welsh Accent. The thing is everyone sounds English, they all didn’t like the way I spoke. My Welsh Accent isn’t a choice the way I speak, I know I am different to everyone from the rest of Wales. I left school due to bullying, now I want to fight for justice for the Welsh language. It’s a big asset but, those people who went to my school will use it again. I see them working and I think to myself, I can show everyone my Welsh Accent and be proud that I am me. I may not have GCSEs but, who needs them when you know what your story is going to be about anyway. I still find it a struggle each day but, I am writing a book that is based on our Celtic lives and I wanted to show the world that my Welsh Accent is pure and free. Bullying or Accentism will never hurt me in the world I am going in to! Everyone has they own story, let them say it in their own language and accents. Everyone has a voice!
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.)
I was a child growing up in a rough part of Croydon and attending a normal local primary school. Because my parents were immigrants, they encouraged my sister and me to ‘speak properly’, so I wasn’t allowed to speak like the other kids even if I’d wanted to. As a result, I was bullied for the way I spoke. However, now, I fully acknowledge that my RP accent is more likely to get me places in life than if I spoke with a Cockney accent, and this is unjust. I even take issue with the phrase ‘well-spoken’, which basically means middle- to upper-class RP and nothing else, and it’s an erasive and discriminatory term that reinforces negative stereotypes of people with all different types of accents, as if they’re automatically idiots because they don’t speak with a BBC newsreader accent.
I was picked on when I joined my secondary school for speaking ‘posh’. I guess I had quite an RP accent from my parents who had both had elocution lessons when they were younger. I would definitely not have considered myself ‘posh’ though. No one wanted to be posh at my school. I had to very quickly start speaking North Londonese to avoid bullying.