Manley

My experiences have been rather different to the majority here, indeed I was not initially sure whether my experiences would fit, because they seem to be the polar opposite of what the project has predominantly showcased, but I felt that they highlight the issue, rather than detracting from it.

I had an unusually privileged upbringing, growing up with family with the Indian Army accent and  in the top end of the public school system, then attending Sandhurst.  I am resultantly eloquent and, whilst my childhood accent, which was very much Upper Received Pronunciation, has very much dulled down over the last 15 years or so, I still certainly speak with Received Pronunciation or perhaps even a ‘plummy’ accent

I am, at the same time, a pretty scruffy, long haired, portly, middle aged man with a bald spot which I am working hard to deny.  Living on the coast I often return from dog walks in a truly disreputable shape and look every inch the vagabond about town. On occasion this has lead to conversations with the local constabulary and often this elicits a poor reception in shops.  I have, however, found that the very moment I begin speaking all that goes away. It is like a magic wand which makes problems go away a lot of the time, particularly with authority.

Although this has generally made my life markedly easier in almost all scenarios, the stories here are supposed to be actual anecdotes, so I will recount an occasion where a police constable stopped myself and a friend, genuinely believing that he had just apprehended two muggers who vaguely fitted our descriptions and who had been seen running into the alley I was passing through. My chum repeatedly told the policeman that we were innocent, and remonstrated, but to no avail.  When I spoke, simply telling the officer that I was not the mugger and we had other places to be immediately had us released, with a profuse apology.

I am not going to pretend that this is not privilege and and I am not going to lie and say that it is not incredibly useful at times, but honestly I think the way that authority treats me, the ease with which I can engage prospective clients and partners and all the opportunities afforded me by my voice are not an advantage, but that the bigotry surrounding accents leads to others being disadvantaged.

That is not to say that I do not have an advantage, but rather that everyone should be afforded the same respect, trust and welcome, regardless of their accent, and regardless of whether they are wearing a dinner suit or a tracksuit.

Anon

I was educated in a private school and speak almost with RP; however, throughout my whole life I have received comments like ‘who do you think you are with that accent’ and ‘you can’t be from Newcastle’.

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!

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.)

Belinda

I know lots of people on here might think this is ridiculous, but I was badly bullied at school for sounding ‘posh’. Do, next time you think an RP accent is a privilege and a ticket, think again. It made me miserable.

Rebecca

I am currently studying to be a speech and language therapist in the south of England. I noticed during my phonetics classes that there was no teaching on the vowels and allophones used in my accent (or any that weren’t RP). When I questioned my lecturer she responded she’d never considered it, didn’t think it was relevant and wouldn’t be useful.

Shiraz

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.

Charles

I have experienced prejudice in English, Welsh, Gaelic, Polish, French, Spanish, and Italian. The one experience I want to share, though, was not in response to a minority, regional, or foreign linguistic variety – plenty of those – but in response to my near-RP accent. I would say I have a Welsh accent, but it’s very “mild”, so it’s not always detectable to people who don’t have RP accents. On a number of occasions, I have had Anglophobic comments, but I was once screamed at by a girl in Glasgow whilst I was on the phone. “F*** off back to England!”, she screamed as I spoke to a close friend walking past Kelvinhall station on my mobile phone. It was very intimidating and upsetting. I feel that there is a lot of aggression towards the RP accent in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Perhaps not unsurprising considering the complex history on these islands – but not really fair on individuals.

Edith

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.