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 :).
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.
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.
My son’s American accent was relentlessly (and badly) mocked and imitated in his secondary schools here in London, and it made him absolutely miserable. This naturally made the other kids do it more. He has taken badly against the country as a whole as a result – a stereotyping overreaction in itself. Prejudice begets prejudice. He hates it here and can’t wait to be old enough to move away.
A few years ago a girl at my English department at a German university had her final oral exam to become a teacher. Unfortunately this girl spoke English with a very heavy Swabian (southern German) accent/dialect. The external examiner who was from northern Germany was close to failing her. To be honest her English was very difficult to understand. And only after the girl’s supervisor insisted that she’ll only teach English in southern German schools (because that’s how the teacher program used to work in Germany) was the external willing to let her pass with a 4 (the worst possible grade he could give her without failing her).
On a personal level, I’ve lived in the US and UK for about 10 years now but as a German I occasionally still get the v/w distinction wrong. Especially when I’m tired. Saying vikipedia instead of wikipedia always gets a few good laughs in the office.
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.
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.
I was once marked down by a lecturer in Austria for speaking with a Yorkshire accent instead of RP in an EFL class. English is not my native language. Now I have a Welsh accent from when I did my PhD in dialectology at Swansea University. I’m proud of it.
I remember being so happy I’d made a friend on my first day at uni. Later that day I heard her mocking the way I said ‘cake’ (in my Yorkshire accent) to another student.