Accent and identity, prejudice and insecurity

Richard Cauldwell invites us to reflect on accent and prejudice, and provides strategies for determining pronunciation goals with our students. June 2014, London.

Accent and identity, prejudice and insecurity - A biography of an accent

Video 1 - Introduction

Video 2 - The impact of prejudice on accent variation

Video 3 - Accents as reference models for pronunciation

Video 4 - How to thrive with non-standard English accents

Video 5 - Accent and English as a Lingua Franca

Video 6 - Conclusion: Accent and identity

What accents do you like and why?  Do you insist, in teaching, on correct pronunciation?  If so, which accent?

In this seminar Richard Cauldwell begins by confessing to a personal history of prejudices (defined as an ‘unreasoned opinion arrived at without consideration of evidence’), insecurities and desires about his own and other peoples’ accents. Then he surveys, through the use of recorded examples, the somewhat contradictory evidence concerning both the acceptance of differences and the continuing prejudices towards regional and overseas accents in the UK.

In the presentation, Richard tracks the history of his prejudices, and finds evidence of continuing prejudice of much the same kind in other people. He gives a quick survey of the accents of the British Isles - including accents of non-native speakers who live in England. He demonstrates both a ‘coming together’ and a resolute ‘desire to be different’ when accents come into contact. He concludes by suggesting that three factors (the requirement to be mutually intelligible, the desire to assert or preserve one’s identity, and the durability of prejudices about accents) all influence one’s sense of self-worth as an individual, and that prejudice must be guarded against and fought both within oneself as an individual, and as a member of society.

About the speaker

Richard Cauldwell has taught English to speakers of other languages for over thirty years. Since 2001 he has been designing and publishing electronic materials for the study of listening and pronunciation. Two of his publications have won British Council Innovations prizes: Streaming Speech (2004) and Cool Speech (2013).

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