I suppose that almost every country on earth has it’s own internal battles with accentism. I know that accents can be a hot topic in the US, for example, and here in the UK each country and region has its own battles, with regions of England feeling just as aggrieved by accentism as the Celtic nations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Regional accents have historically and still can be viewed by some (albeit by an ever-decreasing number of people as we all become more enlightened in such matters) as an indicator for social status, or class; the inference being that a strong regional accent indicated a lack of education and/or intelligence. This hails back to a time when elocution lessons were considered a hallmark amongst the educated.
As a Welsh voice actor this has been a fascinating, emotive and painful area for me.
Early mass audio/visual media, particularly in the UK, all sought ‘the Queen’s English’ or Received Pronunciation (RP), and so effectively whitewashed the variety of vibrant and beautiful cultures of the UK.
As a young rock musician I was once told “You’re singing is amazing, but then the song ends and you open your mouth and THAT accent comes out!”. I took it on the chin at the time, but it obviously went in on some level. A few years later an English employer that I worked for instructed me to no longer answer the telephone as “The Welsh accent didn’t sound professional”, and I sat through meetings where consultants mocked the accents of the receptionists of the then newly founded Welsh Assembly parliament.
I’m happy to report that I am finding the voiceover industry to be just the opposite of all that, with a general feeling of community and inclusivity that I have rarely experienced elsewhere.
Fast forward a couple of decades and our attitude to ‘regional’ accents is changing for the better. We hear our accents on TV, radio and film and, in general, a person’s accent is much less linked to their social status.
Where I used to feel my accent was a hindrance, I am slowly but surely coming to regard it as my super power.
And in ‘proper actor’ style – other accents are available, of course 😉