Can Having An Accent Hold You Back?
Aye up, love, how’s it gan like eh?
Or, alternatively, “Hello madam, how do you do?”
When meeting someone for the first time, which greeting would you prefer? Would you turn your nose up at the first person or smile? Equally, would you judge the second person or reply in kind?
In short, would you form an opinion of someone because of their accent?
I love accents and could talk about them all day long. Of course, like everyone, there are some accents I prefer to others. Some really make me smile. My Scottish English teacher, thankfully, never got offended by my class asking her to repeat certain words and bought us all Curly Wurlys when we left school. No one can say Curly Wurly like the Scots and it fills me with joy. I love the accent and its huge variations. Sadly, I am terrible at doing impersonations and should be restrained from making an attempt to do so at all costs, but I could listen to my English teacher until the cows come home.
Other than music or a certain smell, there is nothing quite like an accent for making me feel at home. Having been born in Yorkshire, raised in Lancashire and matured in Cumbria, I am an all round northern girl and love the vast variation of accents in such a short distance.
Every time I meet someone, whether ‘oop north’ or ‘daan souf’, one of the first things I do is try to guess where they’re from. Equally, it is quite entertaining listening to people trying to figure out my heritage because my accent is a bit of a northern mix. It also isn’t particularly strong, but I can count at least ten of my southern friends who would spit their tea out reading that and completely disagree. I am their token northern friend. “How are you doing, ‘munkeh'” one so often repeats, doing her best Johnny Vegas impression. I mean my accent is not that strong, but the comparisons amuse me. When I was at primary school folk used to call me ‘posh’! Ha! Now I can really see my friends laughing, but I kid you not, that happened. It offended me more than being called ginger. Not that there is anything wrong with ‘posh’ (or indeed ginger), but I am not it. I am proud of my twang.
Your accent is a part of who you are and can say a lot about where you’re from, but one thing it does not do is demonstrate how intelligent or capable you are.
Unfortunately, some people are too quick to judge a person negatively because of their accent and hold often utterly false preconceptions about them. Just because you have a northern accent doesn’t mean your family worked in a mine and, in the same guise, just because you have a plain English accent does not mean that you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth.
Thankfully, for me, I haven’t found that my northern accent has held me back, yet. And why should it? But having worked in London it has often been the source of conversation and jibbing. As an example, I once had a superior colleague say that I reminded them of Karl Pilkington, to which I replied, “Are you calling me an idiot at a law firm?” It became our joke. Fortunately, from the way our relationship panned out, I think I can safely say that I was judged on my ability and my work, not on my accent. But had it been said to someone who isn’t as happy as I am to be teased, maybe such a quip could have turned sour.
Just as we so often form a first impression of someone from their appearance, so too we seem to judge people based on their accent. I would hope in today’s society, a society in which we are becoming more accepting of differences, people are not held back because of their accents. However, sadly, there are many stories of people being patronised or under estimated because they have a regional dialect.
Like all prejudices in life, whether it be against gay people or stigmatising those with disabilities or mental health issues, we shouldn’t accept it. If someone doesn’t like your accent and treats you negatively because of it then, quite frankly, the question you should be asking is: do you want to be associated with them anyway?
Be loud and bloody proud. Wear your accent with pride.
Image Credit: Garry Knight