Accents in business by Jade Mansell

Jade Mansell

‘Oy kwoyt loik the berminggum accksunt’. Oh sorry, does that sound comical? And I mean the actual statement as well as the way it sounded: is it possible to have any love for the Birmingham accent?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy living close to the haven of shopping that is the Bullring, and Birmingham is supposed to be the “second city”, isn’t it? But it wasn’t until university that I realised quite how much my Brummie credentials affected perceptions of my personality.

I don’t live in Birmingham, I’m around 45 minutes away on the train – though of course this doesn’t mean anything to my lofty aristocratic southern friends. They deem anything above London ‘The  North’, whilst repressing an involuntary shudder at the thought of the murky, uncivilised wasteland that they have thankfully avoided thus far in life.

On arriving at Oxford Uni, I was astounded to find myself one of only 3 other West Midlanders in my year; needless to say I stuck out like a sore thumb. I’ll never forget the fresher’s week team-building exercise in which I addressed the whole hall with a microphone. Heads whipped round, students fell off their chairs, people took out ear-trumpets, all the better to hear the strange and jarring tones of my unlyrical utterings. Ok, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but I soon realised that I was different, and what’s more, I would become the butt of everyone’s’ joke.

Not that I minded – I love attention in any form – but I did find it grating that people were so quick to ‘figure me out’ based on my accent. A 2008 survey found that, as The Times put it, ‘the Brummie accent is perceived as ‘worse than silence’’. In a series of experiments, even a control group who said nothing at all were considered more intelligent than those with Brummie accents, and I have no trouble believing that. People with this bothersome accent are considered far less intelligent than those with other accents, and as such I sought to ditch mine as soon as possible.

Now don’t judge me, I wasn’t just being vain. I was thinking of my career, I swear – another survey showed that the Birmingham accent severely decreases interview success. (But mainly I was just being vain).

This all provokes the question: accents – should you tactically ditch or be proud of your roots? It’s a tricky one, and has sparked debate in the Kinetic office. On the one hand, the Brummie accent is associated with stupidity, and could be damaging. On the other, it’s quite cool to be novel, and certainly makes you more memorable. Plus, ditching your accent is like denying a part of your past. So I decided to try and embrace it, and, not gonna lie, it’s proven to be something of a talking point (see what I did there?).

Three years later and my accent has become ‘kind-of-southern-with-a-west-midlands-twang’, or so I’m told. At home, I’m posh. Amongst my uni friends, I’ll always be the Brummie. Damn!

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