‘Accentism’ is another prejudice says academic

People with regional accents should be protected from "accentism" alongside the fight against racism, ageism and sexism, it has been claimed.

Employers should state in writing that job applicants’ accents will not be used against them and application forms should request applicants to “state their accent” alongside other identities such as gender, sexual orientation, religion, age and race, according to Manchester University linguist, Dr Alex Baratta.

Dr Baratta, based at the University’s Manchester Institute of Education said: “We should acknowledge that any form of workplace discrimination, to include accentism, should not be tolerated in a society which seeks to be more inclusive.

“This is why ‘accentism’ should be taken seriously as a problem which affects many of us.

“Clearly, most people modify their accent not because they lack pride in it, quite the opposite in fact. It’s actually because they fear the negative perceptions others might have of them if they don’t, especially in work-related contexts.”

Dr Baratta, who is from Los Angeles, added: “As with George Bernard Shaw’s quote, ‘It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.’

“I don’t know if one prejudice is better then the other, you’re the wrong colour, the wrong sex, wrong age, wrong accent.”

His call to battle accentism comes after his research claims to show people who “posh up” their accent feel like a fraud or “fake”.

Though accent modification is common, Dr Baratta said it can threaten the way we feel about personal identity, often causing anger and frustration.

Workplace meetings with ‘posh’ sounding senior managers can be especially stressful for an individual with a more pronounced regional accent, along with job interviews and even speaking on the phone, he said.

Dr Baratta’s research is based on an ongoing survey of children, students and staff from different institutions and schools.


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