I come from Kingston-Upon-Hull which has a very distinctive accent. At the primary school, we sang a hymn that ends ‘nothing can our peace destroy’. The teacher shouted at us for pronouncing it ‘distroy’ and told us to sing it again ‘properly’. I privately decided to pronounce it as I wanted, as did the other 150-odd children in the room. She practically turned inside out with fury, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. When I was teaching primary I always remembered not to lose my dignity in that way but also never to criticise children’s accents.
I have always seen that as my first act of mass protest.
I was at a coffee machine and the man in front said I could go first as he was retired and didn’t have to go to work. He then asked what I did for a living… I said I’m an English teacher and he roared with laughter and said ‘A Scouser….teaching English!!…they’ve got no chance!’
Whilst doing my teacher training, the lead lecturer suggested that I attend lessons so I wouldn’t speak with a Yorkshire accent. I didn’t.
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.
Talking to a hiring manager…You say you’re a Native British Language teacher and student of Linguistics, “how come you don’t sound British”
My friend, a year 1 teacher, got negative feedback after being observed teaching phonics. ‘Overriding her north London accent’ was recorded as her main moving on point.
In my first year at uni one of my Lecturers in DaF (German as a Foreign Language) commented: ‘Also Sie kommen aber aus dem Süden, oder?’ (So you must be from the South [of Germany]?) The whole class laughed (I felt at me). NB: My uni was in Munich!!
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.
When I was 16 years old, I was an exchange student to Germany for a year. I’m American. One of the classes I was taking was English literature. It was early on in the school year, I didn’t know many people. The class was reading the Grapes of Wrath. The teacher was a non-native English speaker but spoke British English. One day we took turns reading from the book aloud. After I read, the teacher said, ‘Too bad you butchered it with your American accent’. It was Steinbeck! But at the time I didn’t stick up for myself.
My current headteacher told the rest of SLT that she’d rather I didn’t read out in assemblies due to my ‘flat Northern voice’. I insisted. Ever since, I’ve been told by teachers I do the best assemblies.