Acceptable Accents:. The Open University Conference: Milton Keynes, June 25 th 2010. “ It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him. ” George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion (1912). Instant discrimination?. Ethnicity
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Acceptable Accents: The Open University Conference: Milton Keynes, June 25th 2010. “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.” George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion (1912)
Instant discrimination? • Ethnicity • Physical Disability • Gender • Age • Accent
Press coverage... • Coleen McCloughlin sounded as daft as a brush.... • She couldn’t even talk properly... did anyone hear how she said 'advertisements‘? Common! • Coleen’s baby Scouse accent/voice puts me off. • As an American I find some accents harder to understand than others. But colleen could just as easily be speaking Cantonese because I can’t understand a word she says... subtitles are a must for this programme. • I laughed at your comment at needing subtitles to watch colleen as you're American. We can’t understand her either and we’re English. • Nothing against Colleen herself just her accent is quite annoying. www.thesun.co.uk
The Ugly Survey • ‘Personnel Today’ conducted an ‘ugliness survey’ where 4000 of their readers completed a survey on how lookist they believe the workplace has become. • Accent was given ‘ugly’ status. • 75% of the returns agreed that it is ok to poke fun at staff with regional accents. • 87% claimed their own regional accent has been the butt of a workplace joke. • Only one in five respondents admitted that they would personally discriminate against those with regional accents.
Valerie Hey: Northern Accent and Southern Comfort: Subjectivity and Social Class. 1997. • Hey writes; ‘...it is common sense to presume a link between place, voice and a class location. We are invited to share preferred meanings which code success as middle-class and Southern and no-nonsense banality and ordinariness as working class and Northern. What you see is contradicted by what you hear.
Focus Group Data: • D – I never knew you were a Scouser for ages after we started. • Lec – (Surprised) Really, how could you not know? • D – I don’t know, probably because you’re a lecturer.
Do accents conjure up a sense of where they belong? Respondent C: ‘I would say yes, definitely yes, as soon as I hear someone’s accent I make a judgement about where they’re from.’
What’s this got to do with HE? • Fitting in... • Peckham (1995) uses the analogy of a race – middle class students start 100m race at 50m while working class students begin at the beginning – at zero – yet when they finish late, they are classed as ‘too slow’. • Recent research demonstrates WP students who completed their degrees at Bristol University did marginally better that independently schooled boys. • Bernstein (1971) Peckham (1995) and Gos (1993) all write about social class markers impacting on non traditional students.
Stolen from Penny... • Nina’s story – Looking for potential • Four key relative indicators for potential (as determined by those horrendous admissions people!) • Have they got something to say? • Ability to express themselves • Good at self promotion • Talk really well
All 11% of those who Strongly/agreed with the statement ‘People with a Scouse accent sound intelligent.’ were from the Greater Merseyside area. • The respondents were given the statement; ‘Scousers are very proud of their accent especially when speaking outside of the region’. The findings look like this:
Focus group quote: Participant A1: A1 – I felt totally nervous speaking in my tutorials, I was the only Scouser and I was very aware of how I sounded and how the others in my tutor group sounded. There was one lad from Southport and I thought he was dead ‘posh’ and I remember speaking and feeling really self conscious about it, I remember thinking ‘oh my god, I’m gonna sound really, really Scouse now.’ (this sounded negative as though he was embarrassed to reveal his regional accent) – and rightly so as I got ripped (ridiculed) regularly for my accent. (participant A laughs about this) So yes I felt very aware of how my accent was seen by others.
The social class question... • The majority of respondents who strongly/disagreed with this statement were from Liverpool and the surrounding areas. • Those that strongly/agreed with the statement were from outside of the Northwest region. • Voices and pictures study – John Honey, Does Accent Matter?
Unacceptable accent? • If 51% of the respondents strongly/disagree with the statement, ‘My accent is accepted in all social groups’, how does that affect non-traditional entrants to HE? • The Aimhigher Greater Merseyside cohort will speak, in the large majority, with an identifiable regional accent. • How does this make the students feel?
Knowing the learner... • Billington et al (1998) note , sociologists are increasingly concerned with the ways in which self identity is constructed through (and in turn constructs) the processes of social life. Coffey, A. Education and Social Change. 2001 • ‘There is nothing wrong with change as long as it’s for the best? Unfortunately this statement reflects only those who believe the best is for them.’ Burke, P.J. Accessing Education: Effectively Widening Participation. 2002
Perception and Self Perception: • Interesting patterns and trends in data between participants from Greater Merseyside region and those from outside. • Scousers tend to have a mixed opinion of themselves, outwardly confident and defensive of all things Scouse yet aware of being identified as ‘other’. • External opinion is largely negative although many respondents to the questionnaires declined to commit to either end of the sliding scale. • Is accent the last taboo? What can be done to eliminate accent discrimination?
You don't need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are! - John Lennon Thankyou! Q & A Session