In this hyper-competitive job environment of ours, it seems that regional accents can limit one’s career aspirations.
I can’t say that I’ve ever refused to hire someone because of a thick accent, but I have taken it into consideration (especially when recruiting for a receptionist).
According to a recent BBC Radio segment, more and more ‘New Yawkers’ are turning to voice coaches to help them lose their Brooklyn, Queens or Staten Island accents. Note: please don’t confuse my Jersey accent with that of a New Yawker. My pronunciation of the word ‘youse’, for example, is slightly, but perceptibly, different. And, as for Lawn Guylanders well, don’t get me started.
Voice coaches say New Yawkers want to lose their accents in order to sound more worldly, a key consideration in a global marketplace. But, as I said, unless the position is that of a receptionist, I don’t know that I’d care about a candidate’s accent. After all, we have several Southerners holding executive positions at Peppercom. Their continual use of y’all is accepted by one and y’all. And, our very own Carl ‘Union Jack’ Foster’s British accent is positively melodious. (What is it about a British accent? And, why does it always sound so damned sophisticated?)
I’d like to think that, with one exception, I’m accent agnostic; the exception being a particularly thick Boston one. It literally drove me wild my freshman year at Northeastern University, and still creates a Pavlovian response akin to someone scratching his nails on a chalkboard.
How about you? Does the New Yawk accent bother you? How about that flat Midwestern accent? A Southern drawl? More importantly, do you think it should be factored into a job evaluation? I’d be interested in hearing your views (as long as they’re not left on my voice mail in a thick, Boston accent).
Thanks again for the lesson, Sue, but, hard as it may seem for you to imagine, I’ve owned a passport since I was a teenager — when I visited ENGLAND (not the UK, not Great Britain) for the first time with my high school English class.
At that time, the Brits all commented on our “American accents.”
Your analogy to Canada is like comparing scones to bagels.
I think I’ll book my next flight to Paris so they can comment on how I speak French with an American accent.
Thanks for the information, Julie. Actually, I’ve had a passport for about 35 years and have been to the United Kingdom at least 25 times in my life. And, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each and every visit (Note: I’ve been to Scotland twice and Ireland once. The other trips were to England). I guess you simply have superior listening skills since I’ve never once been corrected by a ‘Brit’ when using the term ‘British accent.’
Actually Julie and Rep Man, I think that the “British accent” is accepted predominantly by Americans who don’t travel much, or even own passports. If you spend any length of time in the UK or with British people, you’d find a different perspective. It is the same way any American wouldn’t want to be called Canadian JUST BECAUSE we are both part of North America. Since likely you don’t get to the UK much, I’ve included a simple tutorial for you. http://holykaw.alltop.com/the-difference-between-the-uk-great-britain-a?tu2=1
Interesting. I’ve heard people use the word ‘affected’ in describing Ted’s Upper East Side accent and mannerisms.
I never notice — I’m so used to UES accents they’re just part of the landscape.
Thanks Bomberpete. Quick question: Do you find Ted’s Upper East Side accent a bit pretentious?
When I pitched the NY Times “Vows” for our wedding announcement and they did do a larger story, I worked with a reporter named Vinnie. His Bensonhurst accent was as thick as the Sicilian pizza at L&B Spumoni Gardens. I was taken aback at first because he was from “The Times,” but that was nothing but me being snobbish and reinforcing stereotypes. He was great, and it made no difference.
RepMan: You are correct; the phrase “British accent” IS universally accepted, just as “American accent” is. The regional dialects within each geographic area is implied.
Thanks for the geography lesson, Sue. The UK/British Isles are sometimes confusing to folks across the pond. It’s been awhile since we declared our independence.
I stand corrected, Sue. Having been to most parts of Britain, I realize there are many distinct accents. That said, the phrase ‘British accent’ seems to have become the universally accepted one, no?
FYI I neglected to mention that Great Britain is only England, Scotland and Wales. So it’s those accents – Ireland and Northern Ireland are are separate. But many Americans, especially those who don’t travel much, often confuse them all.
There is really no such thing as a British accent. English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish are all distinct. Perhaps you meant to write English accent but you wrote British. It is kind of like mistaking NJ for NY accent but more pronounced. Just ask any Brit!
Ditto. I get the same thing, Julie. I’ve had Midwesterners in particular make fun of my pronunciation of the word ‘water.’ Personally, I get a kick from hearing the SoCal surfer/rock climber accent. Every word is pronounced slowly and in a tres laid back way. Everyone is called “bro”. And, every experience is, “…like radical, dude.”
As a native New Yorker, I can tell you first-hand that having a regional accent is considered a stigma (usually by other native New Yorkers who have taken speech lessons to adopt the Standard American English accent).
Having a NY accent hasn’t hurt Barbra Streisand or Woody Allen.
When someone I meet now says, “You’re from NY; I can tell by your accent,” I just smile and say “thank you.”
Well, like you, I’d probably have to take it into consideration. But a firm that sounds that Italian should probably have a guy named Vinny answer the phone.
Interesting feedback, Lia. So, assuming you one day start LoBello, LoBello & LoBello, you’d have no trouble hiring a receptionist who answers the phone with the thickest New York accent imaginable? Wouldn’t you be concerned about L,L & L’s image?
I’ve noticed people reacting negatively to Ed’s pronounced West Hartford accent. I wonder if it’s cost us business in the past?
Definitely not! Accents are such a great way to break the ice both in business and in life. I can’t tell you how many times my pronunciation of coffee has led to the exclamation “You’re not from Florida!” and before I know it, I’m in a conversation about favorite landmarks in New Jersey. Accents are a common bond when you share one, conversation starters when you hear one, or just plain old interesting when you get one that’s not familiar.
I couldn’t agree with you more, Sam. In fact, the BBC 9 o’clock news is currently read by a Welshman. That would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. Thankfully, regional British accents are more prevalent on the tele these days.
Y’all nailed it, Sam. It’s not the accent, but the intellectual content that determines whether I hire someone. That said, every subtle nuance counts in a weak job market such as ours.
I reckon an accent adds a little color and diversity to communication, which can make for a more dynamic organization. It’s always what bothered me about broadcast communcators being required to take “voice and diction” courses in college, to try and make everyone sound the same. Might help an industry who wants everyone to be disposable parts and just switched out, but it isn’t better for the listener or the talent.