speaking

What is your accent saying about you?

originally posted as LinkedIn article

Now you may have noticed there’s a theme to my posts, there’s always something that’s got me thinking. Well this time it was a lovely client, and now firm friend, Eddie who sparked off my brain cells. He kindly agreed to do a customer recommendation video for me, you can see it here if you’re interested:Eddie video¬†and I think he’s brilliant on it. When I put it up on LinkedIn Eddie commented on his accent and that was what got me thinking.

Now I love accents, there are even a few that make me go weak at the knees, though I make sure I cover it well in business environments! I wondered though if Duncan Bannatyne’s lovely Scottish accent set off an unconscious reaction in us that he’ll negotiate a canny deal and drive a hard bargain. Or if Jean-Christophe Novelli’s charming French accent leads to us assuming he’ll be a great cook before we even taste his food. (Having tasted his food it is even better than you can imagine…) Does Eddie’s Cumbrian accent make us think of hard-working, straight-talking Northerners?

For decades now there’s been talk about how the BBC needs to adopt more regional accents in order to reflect society better. I can remember as a child constantly being corrected by my mother so I didn’t use Cumbrian dialect because at that time it did undoubtedly affect your career prospects. So has that changed or has it just gone underground and remains in our subconscious?

We are after all all only human and we know that first impressions really matter so realistically we are bound to react in some way to an accent aren’t we? If that’s the case in this era of “personal branding” what should we do about our accent? Should we try to change it or speak it proudly?

It came to me as quite a shock when I discovered I do have a Cumbrian accent, I mean my mother doesn’t usually fail in her endeavours I can tell you so I couldn’t believe my accent had dared to survive! Seriously though I’m pleased I do have it, I think we should be proud of our local heritage and as part of that how we speak. Don’t get me wrong you won’t catch me saying “As gaan yam marra” (“I’m going home mate” to the non-Cumbrians) anytime soon because in the internationally connected world we live we need to be as understandable as possible. A slight difference in how we pronounce our words though is a nice part of our individuality.

So what do you think? Are you proud of your accent or have you tried to tone it down? Do you agree that we must subconsciously react to people’s accents? If so are there certain accents that do affect your judgment and in what way? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • Your accent isn’t important – it is a tool you use to communicate. If you use your accent with no regard to your audience (be they one or one million) it’s like trying to knock a screw into a piece of wood with the handle of the screwdriver. You’re just making hard work for yourself.