Accents and Attitudes: Exploring linguistic diversity

Billy ClarkMCRj

This session addresses two themes of English: Shared Futures: ‘inequalities’ and ‘applied English’. It brings together and showcases a range of projects and activities exploring accent diversity, attitudes to accents, and ways in which recognising accent diversity can bring benefits to teachers, students and others.

Each of the projects shares an interest in viewing accent diversity as a positive resource and minimising possible negative effects of this diversity, including contributions to conscious and unconscious bias, and exclusion (including self-exclusion).

Each talk will last ten minutes with five minutes for questions and discussion.

Colleagues from York and Dublin will discuss a project to devise and deliver a free online MOOC on Accents, Attitudes and Identity: an Introduction to Sociolinguistics. The goal was to repackage research concepts, theories, methods and applications for students and teachers of English Language A level, and for the general public and an international audience. In this talk we describe the content and structure of the course and reflect on feedback received.

The Diversity We Can Hear project aims to raise awareness of accent diversity, to investigate the extent to which this diversity is recognised and focused on in a range of kinds of classroom practice, and to develop resources for use in classrooms and in other contexts. This talk presents the results of an initial survey of classroom practice with responses from teachers of English Language and Linguistics in both HE and secondary/FE, with comparison to responses from teachers of Film/Media Studies.

The Role of Accent in British Teaching is a project exploring attitudes to accents in teacher training which aims to start a nationwide dialogue with teachers from all over on how accent should be addressed in Teachers' Standards. This talk discusses the status certain accents have in the context of UK teacher training, and how mentors and trainee teachers can differ with regard to what is deemed to be a ‘professional’ accent for the teaching profession.

The Accentism Project (http://accentism.org) was set up in 2018 to collect stories of language-based discrimination, prejudice and negative stereotyping. Seeing a need to encourage discussions of the area among young people, we recently began to run workshops in schools around the project, in order both to raise awareness of attitudes towards varieties of speech and to celebrate language diversity. Here, we describe the project, and report on the success and findings from the school workshops.

Accent Bias in Britain (https://accentbiasbritain.org/) is a project which examines current attitudes to accents in Britain, and investigates whether unconscious accent bias plays a role in how job candidates are evaluated. This talk presents a summary of findings so far from a survey of attitudes to five regional accents and the impact of accent bias on hiring practices in the legal profession.

The projects and project members discussing them are:

Repackaging Research on Accents, Attitudes and Identity for a MOOC
Sam Hellmuth, Claire Childs, Carmen Llamas, Dominic Watt, Paul Kerswill, University of York
Sarah Kelly, University College Dublin

Diversity We Can Hear: Raising awareness of accent diversity as a classroom resource
Anna Charalambidou, Katerina Loukopoulou, Middlesex University
Billy Clark, Alex Leung, Robert McKenzie, Northumbria University
Sam Hellmuth, University of York
Sarah Kelly, University College Dublin

The Role of Accent in British Teaching
Alex Baratta, University of Manchester

Taking the Accentism Project to Schools
Erin Carrie, Manchester Metropolitan University
Rob Drummond, Manchester Metropolitan University

Accent Bias and the Judgement of Professional Competence in Britain
Devyani Sharma, Queen Mary University of London
Dominic Watt, University of York

Sat 12:45 pm - 2:00 pm