Have you ever been guilty of judging someone purely based on their accent?
Have you ever tried your best to get rid of your natural accent, and to pick up a new one?
Most of us would nod yes to those questions. Drawing conclusion about a person merely based on accent is a form of unconscious bias. It is a type of prejudice that leads to discrimination and inequality, which often gets ignored.
Although mainstream media highlights and protests racism, accent mockery still seems to be blatantly acceptable.
It is evident in television, in conversation, and in social media platforms, both globally and locally.
Globally, discrimination based on accent has been brought to attention to some extent.
However, in Bangladesh, intellectual and class-based prejudice held over the variation of Bangla accents is largely overlooked.
Due to such prejudice held against people with a foreign or different accent, they face numerous difficulties from subtle social exclusion to class-based stereotyping.
Variation in accents often lead to ridicule. Though many will argue that it’s just an accent and nothing to be taken too seriously.
However, studies have shown that a person’s or an employee’s accent is often wrongfully associated with their competence, intelligence, financial status, and social capacity.
A person or an employee’s accent is often related to their cultural heritage and their nationality. So, assumptions drawn based exclusively on accents is a form of racial discrimination.
Therefore, this evident discrimination or mockery of accent should not be discounted.
Furthermore, employers admit to inclining more towards a candidate with the standard accent.
Non-standard accents are often used as a barometer for workplace competence and often hinder the process of getting jobs. So, what is the standard accent?
A person or an employee’s accent is often related to their cultural heritage and their nationality. So, assumptions drawn based exclusively on accents is a form of racial discrimination
The standard accent
Even for the English language, there are Scottish, British, Irish, Australian, and Canadian accents. And each region in these countries has a different accent.
If we look at Bangladesh, each division has a different Bengali dialect: Sylheti, Noakhali, Chittagonian, etc.
If we can’t decide what is the right accent, then why is there such a stigma and discrimination based merely on accents?
In today’s world, embracing diversity in all aspects of life is a key means for coexistence. When we are striving for cultural diversity, why is there an incessant pressure to forego one’s natural accent and to adapt to the perceived right one?
If we celebrate multi-culturalism, we must embrace multi-cultural accents.
Varying accents and dialects indicate a person’s regional ties and their cultural heritage.
They are equally important and valid and imply a beautiful linguistic diversity.
Although on a global scale it can be useful to have a standard accent, variations should not be met with unfair prejudice and mockery.
In a global village, where migration is a growing phenomenon, the variation of accents simply indicate the diversity in cultural history and heritage.
Whether we accept it or not, this diversity in accents is the new linguistic reality.
Naima Nuren Khan is an Analyst at Deloitte Australia.