Schoolchildren think their teachers should keep their regional accents, rather than modifying them for the classroom, new research shows.
Alex Baratta, from the University of Manchester, said there was still a prevailing assumption that received pronunciation is the most desirable classroom voice.
One teacher from Bristol told him: “The Bristolian accent has lots of connotations, like village idiot, yokel, farmer. It wasn’t doing me any favours, because all you’d hear is the accent, and it was like, ‘He’s thick’.”
And a teacher from Salford admitted to modifying her accent closer to received pronunciation, because she wanted to be “a model to the girls”.
However, the pupils whom Dr Baratta spoke to believed that it was important for their teachers’ speech to reflect the diversity of accents in society. “I don’t think there should be a standard accent, because it’s wrong to discriminate,” said one pupil.
Another commented: “You should just talk how you want to.”
Must talk be'er
However, school students did say they were often criticised for using a glottal stop: the verbal swallowing of letters that renders “better” as “be’er”.
But many pupils echoed the sentiment expressed by one interviewee: “People shouldn’t have to change themselves.”
In his research, Dr Baratta spoke to nine teachers and 55 pupils, at three schools. He is still in the process of collating his findings.
“For the current generation of British children, one’s accent is clearly representative of who a person is,” he said. “Therefore, a desire to keep it real is felt, amid the students’ clear respect for diversity – in this case, linguistic diversity.”