Northern teachers feel pressure to hide their regional accents

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A number of young teachers with Northern accents say that the way they speak has been commented on by their mentors.

In a study by the University of Manchester, the teachers admitted to modifying their regional accents because they felt they were seen as “inappropriate for education”.

Dr Alex Baratta, a lecturer in linguistics who led the research, says that the teachers feel they are “selling out” by neglecting their regional accents in favour of more “standard” classroom speaking voices.

Dr Baratta last year undertook research into the affects of “accent modification” on how people feel about themselves in Britain. He found that many people admit to “poshing-up” their accents to fit in to certain work and social situations. 

However, the affect of this is that many “feel like fakes” and the research raised concerns that this phenomenon could even threaten personal identities and cause “anger and frustration”. His latest study explores teachers’ accents and was qualitative research involving 11 trainee teachers and five qualified teachers with Northern accents.

Dr Baratta said almost all of his interviewees admitted that their accent had been picked-up on by mentors, leading to the teaching staff feeling they had to “neglect their true voice”.

Dr Baratta said: “The teaching profession is one which relies on a clear voice which is easy to understand, perhaps more so at the primary level when teaching phonics. This of course is a completely valid point. 

“However, it can be the case that trainee teachers with regional accents are being made to feel that, somehow, their accents equate to speaking unclearly. There is a need for a balance to be struck, ensuring that students can understand and thus learn from teachers, while not completely discarding the unique richness that comes with regional accents.”

Some of the teachers reported being made to feel inferior, with one student claiming a mentor had laughed at her Eccles accent, and another explaining how an interviewer threatened to stop an interview because of the interviewee’s regional accent.

Dr Baratta added: “The findings are particularly pertinent in Britain where we are a melting pot of cultures and yet our next generation of teachers arguably do not feel they can be true to who they are when they speak to a class.”

For more on Dr Baratta’s work, visit www.accentpride.co.uk

 


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