Have you ever thought about how your accent affects your interaction with other people?
I love accents. I love the subtleties, I love guessing what has shaped an individual's accent, where they come from, where they passed through to get here. I can listen to my beloved husband and just hear his beautiful intonation and forget to listen to what he's saying (ok he may have been talking C++ but it's still not an excuse - he just has the most amazing accent which can be distracting). I truly love the diversity of accents in Glasgow, where you have anything from the proper Weegie to people from all over the UK and from around the world. I always thought Glasgow to be particularly rich in this diversity of accents because there's probably less than 50% of native Scots here (I'm guessing!) or at least so it seems, you hear different accents every day. At work, there's people from further north, from the east, from the south.
And then I'm in an east end cafe ordering a roll and I feel awfully conscious of my own accent. Builders and bakers speaking in the most amazingly beautiful gutteral Glaswegian, and I dread to order my butty because they'll spot instantly I'm not from here. I then order and stutter with a whisper as nervous as I used to be as a choir girl singing a solo.
Am I paranoid? Fact is that in spite of me living here for over 15 years, the other day I discovered that most of my friends are not Scottish. Now this may be because there is generally a lot of movement of people and that this is a fair representation of reality. But maybe accents keep us apart because they locate us in some sort of social drawer that we can't really get out of to explore another drawer.
It's not even that people instantly know I'm German - but it's obvious I'm not born and bred working class Glaswegian. The thing is, I can by now put on a Glaswegian accent, but it feels wrong doing so. This comes from a woman who had no qualms about speaking with an Irish accents some 18 years ago and still slips into it automatically when speaking to an Irish person - but that was just how I spoke English, I couldn't not speak like it. Now it would be a choice and while I know non-Glaswegians who do this, to me it feels wrong. Or maybe I just feel people would make fun of me (and possibly rightly so?).
On a day to day basis though, the accent thing is about class and (perceived which then becomes real) power. Generally, the people I meet to set programmes up with mostly speak much like me, with a neutral English accent tinged by a soft Scottish intonation and pronunciation. The people who take part in the programmes mostly speak Glaswegian. Just now, I even noticed how someone changed her accent when on the phone to me, and it made me feel all conscious as to what that meant - did she relate to me differently, did she see me as not in her drawer?
I wonder how this applies to people with other accents, say an English accent and if it differs whether it's a "posh" or northern English accent. People have certainly labelled me as English (which is funny as I never spend much time in England) and were surprised when I said I was German, and I'm not sure which label I prefer or how that changes the way this person perceives me.
And I keep wondering if accents may stand in the way of trust and creating personal and professional relationships and create a barrier that has to be overcome, that may not be there if you share the same accent.