by Paula on December 21, 2010

I had lunch with my friend Michelle Pascal at the weekend, who works as a journalist for BBC News. We were dicsussing a new project she’s getting involved in relating to community involvement and making the BBC relevant to a more diverse audience, and the subject of regional accents came up. Michelle was born and raised in Bristol and as such has a Bristol accent (so I’m told, I’m hopeless at identifying accents!). There was a time when this would have made her unable to take a presenting role in front of the camera, but now she is being used for this role more frequently as the BBC recognise that local accents are more likely to engage local people.

It is very easy to see watching mainstream TV that there are accents that are favoured and accents that you rarely hear and yet on regional programmes there is going to be far more buy-in and engagement with a programme if the presenters sound like you do!

I had an interview for a company in Dorset many years ago, and prior to being offered the interview, the Director of the company called me up “for a chat”. I later found out that I had been called for interview as my accent sounded professional on the phone. Even though based in Dorset, they did not want anyone with a Dorset accent as they felt this put them at a disadvantage when dealing with national companies. Although I was obviously pleased I had made it to interview, I didn’t feel comfortable with this prejudice towards their area and felt they should have been more embracing of their local people, accents and all!

So now we move into the realm of Social Media where, for the most part, it is not possible to distinguish where someone comes from. So does this open up the opportunities for those with the unpopular accents? As long as we are literate and can write good English, is it no longer important how we sound when we say it?

Personally I find the loss of accent and everyone sounding the same, quite a shame. If your accent can’t shine through the words you type then let’s make sure our personalities do!

What are your views? Can you tell regional dialect in the written word? Do you think some accents are undesirable and companies should steer away from them? Or do you think that it’s personality over accent every time?

¬†I’m always interested in your views :-)

{ 1 comment }

Tony December 23, 2010 at 1:09 am

What counts as an accent anyway?

I think people from the USA speak with an american accent; they think I speak with an english accent. We may be the native speakers but they write the “british english” spell checkers on our computers!

Perhaps in the future we will have to drawl our way though interviews to maintain our credibility. After all, english pop singers have been very successful with this tactic!

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