Accent Reduction Programs: How Social Media Contributes to Accentism
Researchers at the University of Manchester broadly define accentism as, ” the frustration a person with a foreign accent experiences after modifying their accent, believing they are conceding to public pressure when they adopt a speech pattern that makes them sound different than they are accustomed to.” In today’s hyper connected society, public pressure usually comes from social media outlets.
Many news personalities around the world have made the conscious decision to speak in their native accent while on camera. Some, such as the BBC’s Steph McGovern, have come under increasingly heavy scrutiny for sounding too informal while on air, or worse yet for a newscaster, being too difficult to understand. Those considering accent reduction programs should not underestimate the pressure that outside forces will have upon them to change their accent in a particular way, even after you’ve been in accent training for an extended period and have grown to like the way you sound when speaking.
Accent Reduction Programs: Searching for an acceptable local accent on television
BBC news anchor Steph McGovern hails from Middlesbrough, a town located in North Yorkshire county within northeast England. McGoven claims that despite working as a newscaster covering stories for 10 years, past interviewers commented that she came across as more intelligent than one might expect upon first hearing her accent. In other words, McGovern has spent a career trying to disprove the beliefs of both coworkers and viewers regarding how a person with her Teesside accent should sound.
The BBC’s sweeping movement to give their newscasts more of a regional sound has had the effect of forcing out established, respected broadcasters who speak precise grammatically correct English in an accent that reveals no traces of their regional origins. This style is often referred to as “Queen’s Engish” and “Received Pronunciation”. One such casualty was BBC Radio 4 announcer Edward Storurton. The BBC thought Storurton’s accent made him sound pretentious. Given that Staunton’s accent and manner of speaking was never seen as a problem before, it’s likely viewer feedback lead to this change rather than director Jana Bennett’s stated intention that the BBC wanted to ‘increase the amount of network TV content which offers distinctive voices with an authentic sense of place.’
Storuton refused to dramatically change his accent on the air and has maintained a following through writing historical biographies and newspaper columns.
The stories of McGovern and Storurton illustrate an important point related to accent reduction programs: choosing to modify your accent should be your decision and your decision alone. Furthermore, even though you may have to endure criticism for being open to some of the basic teachings in accent reduction programs and accusations that you are betraying your identity, there are those who will see your modified accent as an extension of your identity rather than the thing that defines it.
Want to learn more about accent reduction programs?
Get started with Accent Pros free accent reduction screening! The screening will rate your accent severity using a 7 point scale: 1 being the most heavy and 7 being very mild. If you’re inclined to take it a step further, check out our various accent reduction programs we have to offer. Accent Pros has an office starter program and online accent reduction programs. Both accent reduction programs have had all clients get a 50% of more accent reduction after 12 sessions-check it out!