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Why accent bias is a dirty game

A public speaking class at a drama school in London in the 1950s © Getty Images

American actress and comedian Kirstie Alley, who died at the age of 71, was one of my first voice lovers. Born in Wichita, Kansas in 1951, Alley looked like a real woman with all the big hair and strong shoulders. I had a voice

I always have a crushing voice, but I’m not the grand, massive type.

This year we were deprived of some particularly great examples: along with Alley, we lost Robbie Coltrane. Angela Lansbury is a London-born actress who moved to Hollywood and spoke with gorgeous chirping, slightly broken transatlantic opulence. Queen Elizabeth II was one of the last notable people to actually speak the Queen’s English.

All had tremendously distinctive voices and all represented different social tribes. In some ways, they represent vestiges of a time when your voice was a true tell of your past. In Britain, one might be forgiven for thinking that such accents have now eroded in the transition to the glottal drawl.

“It’s a dirty game,” Prince Harry says in Netflix’s second trailer to promote his tell-all documentary. take down.

But despite the accent sludge we hear all over the media today, they still prove to be a powerful source of prejudice that most people have to overcome. in a BBC documentary How to break the class ceiling This week, broadcaster Amol Rajan explored how accent bias impacts our progress in the job market, even if we don’t know it.

Using research by researchers from Queen Mary’s Department of Linguistics, Rajan found that 70% of newsreaders across the UK’s major news channels were only 10% of the population, and 75% had an accent. made it clear that he was speaking in an accepted pronunciation, even though he was industrial working class”. In addition, he provided further evidence that people who appear Southern and urban are far more likely to be promoted in the civil service, banking, and legal departments.

The show’s case study was made for a pathetic exposition of the classism that still exists in Britain.Chris was born into poverty in Hull and his Northern accent made him “ridiculous” to his employer. I was worried that it would sound like Because she didn’t ring the part. The person interviewed did not speak in the same manner as the person seated in front of him.

And despite advice and leadership training, none of them got the jobs they thought they deserved. While having a degree and a Distinguished Dean’s Award, he concluded that a rural Somerset accent was probably too ‘local’ to break the world of ‘fame’. news.

The program was less about “how” to break the class limit and more about if you could actually do it. Meanwhile, a number of what sounded like young conservatives in black shoes and quirky socks described the company’s efforts to overcome class prejudices.

Despite the blanket rhetoric, class divisions in Britain are still surprisingly pronounced. Last month, it was reported that only 21% of his senior management positions in the city were occupied by staff from working-class backgrounds. Also, the UK is one of the least socially mobile countries in the developed world. In Britain, Ts may have been tempered and outwardly genteel, but classism remains as pernicious as it was her fifty years ago.

Your voice can be a powerful weapon. Sometimes I even open the door. However, it is very sad to think that even in 2022, how you speak will determine the extent to which you can progress. I only experienced voice embarrassment early in my career when working in the South of Ireland. There, I was uniquely conscious of my colleagues hearing 400 years of colonial rule every time I spoke. They were always very nice about it — they also had the best accents in the world. gave to myself

Along with new Square Mile incentives to elevate people from working-class backgrounds to higher leadership roles, we hope the documentary will inspire employers to embrace a wider choir.Whatever local accent. But let’s do it. Voice diversity makes the world a better place. Why work with Harrys when you have Hagrid on your desk?


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https://www.ft.com/content/3474d0b0-d3a3-480f-aa3c-cdf87d0af7bd Why accent bias is a dirty game

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