We all have an accent!

Correct Pronunciation

Do you have an accent?” asked dialect coach, Helen Ashton to an auditorium packed with educationists and English language enthusiasts at the  

Seeing a couple of raised hands, she was surprisingly delighted.  When the same question was asked to a gathering in UK, their response was an unequivocal, ‘No’, mentioned the trainer.
 
But to those who interestingly thought that they didn’t have one, she revealed, “Accent 
is purely how you speak, the way you shape your words. And, well everybody has 
an accent!” 

Guiding the talk around ‘The Politics of Pronunciation’, the writer of the book Work on Your Accent propelled the audience to an engaging discourse around the evolving form of Received Pronunciation (RP) which is thought to be the standard accent for English, while dwelling upon intriguing questions such as : “Which pronunciation should we be teaching to our children?” 
 
Our accent is determined by a combination of factors: geography, age and 
background. 
 
“Your accent is your identity, your fingerprints carrying all information about your life, places you grew up in, the education you had,” said the trainer, adding that it’s the information we hear or we may hear when we deal with accent. 

Involving the audience in vocal muscle exercises, she lead us into listening to multiple native English accents, popping a pertinent question, “How do we go about teaching pronunciation in a classroom? 

Should we try and sound like a native speaker?

” But going by the audio recordings, a New York accent is way different from that of an Australian in range, vowel and constant sound etc.

So, what we get in our textbooks are RP (or British English ) and General American. While the speaker emphasises that there is nothing wrong with these pronunciation, she questioned their strong worldwide impact. 

“RP and general American are just another way of setting air into vibration in your larynx and shaping sounds by moving muscles of your mouth. The position that they assume is because 
of the social forces – power and tradition. So, in this context, standard accent thus set an idea that if this is a norm, then any other way of speaking isn’t normal. But we are all accented, its only power structures that tell us that certain accents are something to be ashamed of.”

Long ago, accent was accepted as an inherited state, something that you are born with, like the colour of your eye. 

The writer added that industrialisation brought about a change when elocution took birth and changing our accent became a way of climbing up the social ladder. 

She emphatically adds, “Language changes, and it evolves, and the presupposition that RP is fixed and neutral is not the case, as it has also evolved. 

If speech was fossilised in 1950s, in the year 2014, it would sound like the speech of a dinosaur.” 

To sum up her thought, she suggests, “If children educated in India or anywhere else in the world were going to do business with people in different countries, it is not  going to be about learning one prestige accent that you can reproduce, the ability to be flexible and code-switch will thus be significant.” 

Code switching thus validates our mother tongue accent and also makes space for us to accommodate other accents when required. 

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry