I am an undergraduate at the University of Oxford. I have a strong accent, as I come from Bradford. Since arriving at university, where the vast majority of people’s voices ring with the supposedly dulcet tones of RP, I have constantly experienced problems due to my accent. I have been asked to ‘speak properly’ by tutors when speaking in tutorials. I have been mocked by other students due to my pronunciation of certain words. I have been told that I will never get a job if I do not allow my accent to ‘mellow’- i.e. conform. In a progress meeting with tutors, I was told that my presenting skills needed work. I am a confident and skilled presenter: they just couldn’t understand or wouldn’t try to understand my accent.
Hablando de tener acento andaluz y de cómo, al hablar mucho por teléfono en el trabajo, trataba de neutralizar un poco el acento para que me entendieran mejor:
«Pero entonces, si sabes hablar bien, ¿por qué hablas así?»
No se me olvidará en la vida.
My husband is from the south east and I am from a northern coastal town. He HATES my accent. At first, I think he thought it was novel and interesting, but now he corrects at least one word from every sentence I utter. My pronunciation of grass/bath is often the target, but recently the way I (have always) not emphasised a ‘t’ at the end of a word absolutely disgusts him. It’s a big issue.
I haven’t experienced this sort of accent annoyance before – I attended a ‘middle class’ university (according to the dean in our welcome speech) and other students found me difficult to understand, or would laugh at everything I said, assuming northerners were all comedians… but no one was ever insulting or derogatory about it to my face. In fact, some of my tutors would make an effort to encourage me to speak and one in particular, who also had a northern accent, would compliment me on the ‘correct’ pronunciation of words!
The Greek I learnt at my mother’s knee was greatly modified, at the age of 7, when I attended primary school. It was accepted that one spoke “proper” Greek as opposed to Cypriot Greek – heavily accented and with its own words (sometimes of Homeric origin , like λαλώ) scattered here and there.
Emigrating 18 months later to London meant attending Greek school on Saturday mornings. The great and the good at the church school would hide their Cypriot origins by trying to talk “posh” with varying rates of success.
When my daughter was born, my mother kept berating me about the Cypriot I used. It needed to be cleaned up into the accepted higher level radio Greek.
Suffice it to say that I lost interest in imparting the language to my daughter, who, having an English father. Was happy to lapse into English only.
Subsequently, I’ve heard from Greeks in Cyprus how they don’t rate their own Cypriot accent/ dialects and chose to heap scorn in those who still use it.
What their reasons for this might be, I’ll leave to conjecture. But, for a small island under occupation by a foreign country , imposing its own culture and language and further culturally compromised by the recent entry of Overwhelming numbers of Europeans and Russians… I would have thought that self-effacement of a great part of Cypriot cultural roots would be considered by any thinking person as cultural suicide.
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!
Spent dinner defending my little brother’s “incorrect” use of th-fronting. My parents would make excellent descriptivist linguists, it’s not their fault though, they “just want him to speak properly”.