You are what you speak

August 18, 2011 by totalityservices

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The UK is wonderfully rich in accents, dialects and regional variations of ‘British English’. Almost every county in the UK has their own linguistic identity. To foreigners visiting the UK and even to other British people some accents can be very hard to digest. I’ve certainly had to ask someone with a thick Glaswegian accent to repeat what they were asking me several times, only to discover after a few repeats that they wanted a burger and chips!

There are many accent stereotypes and preconceived ideas about what ‘British’ people sound like. The British in American dramas or movies all seem to have ‘posh’ accents and have attended some kind of elocution classes- few of the regional variants are ever portrayed except for maybe the Gaelic accents. These stereotypes are only too evident in comedy shows or sketches, Harry Enfield, Little Britain and Catherine Tate are all sources of regional humour.

I must say that I am guilty myself of having preconceived ideas about people when they start to speak. If someone has a strong Birmingham accent, for example, I can’t help but think, and this is completely unfounded, that they sound a little bit slow. Mention the Liverpudlian accent and the response will undoubtedly involve the phrase ‘Now then, now then’.  On the other hand people are quick to judge me when I venture up north, ‘you sound posh’ is a comment I’ve heard on more than one occasion. This makes me laugh, I’m far from ‘posh’ it just happens I don’t really have an accent, which in itself is slightly saddening, does this then mean I don’t have a true regional identity? I don’t have a northern accent, or a southern accent- people ask me where I’m from and I can’t lay claim to any particular county of the UK.

I have, however, developed the ability to imitate other accents, and enjoy spurting out nonsense in, say, a Geordie accent after a glass of wine or two. On one occasion, I even managed to convince someone that I was French! When foreigners learn English it is very difficult to develop a perfect English accent (whatever that might be), and personally I think that this is a good thing. Your accent, and dialect is a part of your identity and it would be a shame to hide this completely.

So here is my thought for the day: What does your accent say about you?

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