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!
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.)
My mother had a very soft Cypriot accent as has my father. I have hardly experienced any discrimination because of the way I speak Greek, in fact I have been encouraged and complimented whenever I am in Cyprus or Greece. There was however one occasion when, in Greece I asked a question, in Greek, to a receptionist who told me that unless I could speak Greek ‘properly’ I should not speak it at all and that we should speak in English. I complied and was able, very happily, to subsequently correct the many mistakes she made in English!!! I used to, admittedly, find the ‘heavier’ Cypriot dialect to be uncouth but now I almost think it rebellious and defiant and I rather like it!
Mine started a long time ago. When I started at Oxford in the late 80s someone told me, ‘You can’t possibly be studying English at Oxford with an accent like that!’ This came hot on the heels of a teacher at a study week telling me ‘The northern accent is generally associated with being thick.’ I now teach on the outskirts of Birmingham and it’s lovely listening to some of my A level language students who are really proud of their accent despite the prejudice they encounter. Same kind of things I was getting back then.
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 American by birth, English by accent and face an awful lot of criticism for it. I was once detained in a horrible little room at JFK airport because my accent and passport didn’t ‘match’ and I was questioned about false documentation before being brought to tears because I thought I was going to be arrested. That was the most unusual experience. Other than that, I often get odd looks when I speak about my history and my parents very much do not like that we sound unrelated.