UK should follow France and make accent discrimination illegal


It is a universally recognized truth that we are judged by the way we speak – it’s one of the first things we notice when we meet new people. If we weren’t, the polls of Britain’s sexiest and ugliest accents wouldn’t come to our attention every two months, your most harmful colleague would stop repeating what you say in a cheap imitation of your voice at social events after work, and the most powerful positions in the UK would not be occupied by people speaking in received pronunciation.
French politicians on Friday voted that accents matter, and deemed them so important that discriminating against someone for having one is now illegal.

France may have different reasons for making accents a protected feature – a government minister openly mocking a journalist from Toulouse for the way she spoke being a shining example – but I think we would greatly benefit from having a law like this. here in the UK. .

It won’t be surprising that I write this as a person with a regional accent. When I left my hometown of Hull in 2010, I didn’t wonder how I was speaking because it was the same as everyone around me. But since then strangers, potential employers, and people with no idea how to chat with a person have openly laughed at the way I speak, thinking it is a good thing in polite conversation.

While no one is asking the government to ban jokes, it is clear that these examples are based on a widely held belief that some accents are better than others, and those that don’t fit indicate that someone is. deserved. to be judged. If people act on commonly held views about people with an accent, they in turn act on a prejudice based on who a person is and where they come from.

One-third of employees feel the need to “soften their accent” at work to look more professional, and senior US security adviser Fiona Hill recently said she would have had trouble claiming a job. high level position in UK because of his Geordie accent. In 2016, as a budding audiovisual journalist, I was encouraged to take speaking lessons before going on the air.

High prejudices have become entrenched in the UK in part because having a regional accent is closely linked to our class origin. In our notoriously class-obsessed society, we do not value the contribution of the working class. It builds on the old trope that the majority of working class people, who are more likely to face poverty and bleak social outcomes, are less able because they haven’t had the opportunity to take a job, or just have different priorities compared to upper class or upper class people. When these widely held beliefs remain unchallenged, they run the risk of further entrenching these inequalities and affecting social mobility.

Read more

Royal feuds and Scandinavian sailors: How Hull’s distinctive accent was shaped by history and stubbornness

The result of my own experience is that I was fortunate enough to study accentology at university and experience these biases firsthand. In our series i sound like, we create a map of how different people speak across the UK, examining how their local history and cultural heritage has shaped the way they speak today. Even in those regions where accents are a source of pride, experts find that members of the younger generation are washing their hands of their accents in Cornwall and Norwich to avoid being judged and stereotyped.

A homogeneous society does not act like a great equalizer. It benefits the powerful and the minority who speak in received pronunciation, which is, ironically, an accent itself. Classifying accent discrimination as a protected characteristic would benefit those most in need of support in society, and would show people across the UK and beyond that their words and thoughts are precious, of all value. ways they say them.

Jasmine Andersson is a journalist at is


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