Are accents a hinderance or a badge of honour? Someone asked me recently if I ever felt discriminated against in the workplace because of my accent, and if I would do anything to change it. I was quick to say no, but it got me thinking… and I would love to know how others feel about it.
The nuances of accents
There are many nuances in relation to accents, for example:
- foreign born people living in the UK vs. the variety of British accents within the UK
- mild accents where one can easily make oneself understood vs. having a really thick accent that is tricky for many people to understand
- where one works geographically and industry wise
Black people in America have said that they have two languages: 1) a standard language for work, and 2) ‘black’ lingo for when they’re within their community. I’m not going to cover that much on this subject because it’s not my experience and I won’t pretend that it is. A movie called Sorry to bother you (2018) is about precisely this issue.
When I was asked “have you ever felt discriminated against in the workplace because of your accent, and would do anything to change it?” my straight answer was: “No”.
Perhaps I’ve been lucky in that I’ve worked in a diverse and liberal sector – the arts and not for profit sector – and never felt this way.
Or maybe my accent is not too heavy and it’s clearer than most southern europeans?
Or perhaps I chose to not care about what people think?
If my accent was so incomprehensible that I found it hard to make myself be understood, I would do something about it because I like communicating with others.
But it’s not. I don’t mind having a little tang that gives away my heritage. I may have British nationality now, but that doesn’t mean I will transform myself overnight into someone I’m not. I was never one who cared much about appearances or playing a game (to my detriment, I must add, life would be easier if I did!) and I’m not about to start now.
If I can make myself understood, why would I change myself – I am who I am (to the tune of Shirley Bassey’s I am who I am ) and I’m proud of my heritage.
Plus, I love
Someone else’s shoes
Sometimes I wish I was more linear about my thinking and opinions but unfortunately (for me and for my mind space) I like to put myself in other people’s shoes. Imagine people in other industries like, say, the legal and banking. I suspect someone with a strong French or Spanish accent might attract unwanted attention?
Or that someone living in some areas, might, following the increase in racism recently, try to tone it down a bit so not to call attention to themselves?
How about you?
I’d love to know your stories and thoughts on the matter of accents and language discrimination:
- Do you have an accent? Where from?
- How does that affect you?
- Have you ever felt mocked or discriminated against because of it?
- Have you ever considered toning down your accent? How would you go about it?
- When does it become an issue?
- Are accents hindrance? Or a badge of
Let me know in the comments or join the conversation on the Facebook page