Friday, 2 March 2012

Ey up lass, how's tha doin'?

or Does An Accent Affect Your Job Prospects?

Geordie, Scouse, Mancunian, Yorkshire, Brummie, Mackem... In this green and pleasant land there are as many dialects as there are people drinking tea, yet the archetypal British accent is one which is posh, southern, and over pronounced. You'll find no sliding 'o's' or dropping 't's' on the 10 o'clock news, no thank you. So how does this effect the rest of us, if this accent is deemed the proper and correct one, is everything else incorrect and improper? Is it how you say it, not what you say, that really matters?

I have a Yorkshire accent. There I said it. But the strange thing is, I didn't realise I had an accent until I was in Year 8. In fact, I thought I was speaking the Queen's English, like my good friend Ryan Jarman here: (it should skip to the correct part)

In fact I don't think I realised that people spoke differently depending on where they were brought up. I watched Byker Grove and never thought anything of their 'cannaes' or their 'pets'. That was until the day my maths teacher pointed out the fact that we never say 'the', we say 'tuh'. Illusion = shattered. I was never the same again. (slight exaggeration)

But when you're young and the furthest you're allowed to venture out is the next town, you don't really face much prejudice based on your accent. You're all speaking the same language, as it were. It wasn't until I came to university that people thought the way I said 'coke' was hilarious, and would repeatedly parrot it back to me. There's a lot of baggage tied up with an accent - people instantly make assumptions about you without actually having to ask you any questions. You have X accent - so you're from X place - so you're like X and X. But of course it isn't a one size fits all formula. 

To escape this form of prejudice, I admittedly 'poshen up' in certain situations. I pronounce my 't's' and shorten my 'o's'. Perhaps this is what Cheryl Cole should have done? But by erasing my accent am I removing a part of my identity? When I'm with friends from school I slip back into a broad Northern accent, but when I'm in more of a professional situation I do tend to tweak it a little bit. Most of the time I don't even notice I'm doing it. It's really a case of fitting in and belonging to a certain group. Someone I know went to uni for three years and came back with not only a first class degree but a 'posh' accent to match, which meant that others in the group thought she was ashamed of who she was and where she came from. This is slightly understandable if the first Yorkshire person that comes to mind is someone from Take Me Out who wasn't known for her eloquence and wit...

So in the future will my accent effect my job prospects? I hope not. Not when we have two Geordie presenters as the most popular entertainment presenters, and another as the face of L'Oreal. There's always going to be jokes about accents and I've probably made a few of my own about other people's, but just because there's a correct way of speaking, doesn't mean that another way is necessarily wrong. Surely it would be a bit boring if we all spoke in the same way? It definitely adds some colour and diversity.

Have you ever faced any prejudices based on your accent? Would you ever change it? 


  1. Really good article. I have experienced a lot of torment (from others and internally) regarding my accent. I am from Newport in South Wales and like you said, my accent was never a consideration until I went to University. You then, like you said, 'poshen up' to both fit it and make life easier for yourself. If people don't understand you it makes things difficult. You then go back home and your friends tell you how you have changed. It's a lose lose situation.

    I have now almost completely lost my Welsh accent and nothing annoys me more than when people announce 'you don't sound like your from Wales'. a)how would they know they have never left Southern England (apart from the odd summer in Paris) and b)does that mean I am less Welsh in their eyes?

    It's a tough one that I feel people need to get over. I made a decision to alter my accent so people could understand me better, but I never have a problem understanding anyone. I can understand all accents. You just have to be patient and tune in. Unfortunately, most people are not so patient.

    I hope your accent doesn't stand in the way of your job search. You can speak 'properly' and have an accent. Accents are something that is great about Britain and we should be proud of them. Good Luck!

    1. Thanks Alison, it's been something which I've been wanting to blog about for a while.
      It's such a difficult situation to be in - you can't please both the people at university and those back at home.

      Yes I agree, you can understand all accents if you just 'tune into' them. So true.

      Thanks :) Yes definitely - something to be celebrated not ridiculed.


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