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Transcript: There's No Such Thing as a Strong Accent

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TRANSCRIPT

Hi, I’m Sarah and it is great to have you hear. If this is your first time, watching one of our weekly communication tutorials, I want to welcome you! And if you are a regular here, it’s always good to have you in our community. 

 

 

Today’s vlog is more a conversation. A conversation that needs to happen after you watch this video. Or maybe a debate. Yes, definitely a debate.

 

A debate I’ve been desperately trying to have with everyone I meet for years. No credit to me. But just saying.

 

At Voice Science, I’m honoured to meet a diverse mix of clients on a daily basis. 

If you were to tally the mix of heritage languages among our clients at any given moment, you’d get anywhere between  20 to 30 different languages.

 

This role makes me aware daily of how little I know. 

But it also makes me angry. 

I perceive, all to often, barriers to communication comfort that don’t just come down to education, intelligence, having the words to say. 

A lot of it comes down to things that YOU need to speak up about.

 

So here is how we will do it.

Close your eyes.

I want you to imagine yourself standing on the steps of Flinders Street station under the clocks. 

Look out from the steps (in normal circumstances) and see the crowds crossing Swanston and Flinders Street. Maybe you can see as far as St Kilda Road too. Look across the circumference in front of you.

And tell me. 

Is everyone a monolingual mainstream Australian English speaker?

You know the answer.

It’s no.

Now tell me.

Who is the majority?

Yes. Say it.

What do you hear?

Languages….

Accents… (we’ll talk more on that in a little bit)

Now tell me.

Where do you fit?

Chances are, if you’re watching this channel you make up the GLOBAL MAJORITY. The global majority is not a speaker of mainstream Australian English. Thank God. No offence to native Australian English speakers, but let’s be real here. 

We need a shift in perspective.

For the past 7 years at Voice Science, I’ve been working with internationals and locals to boost communication clarity and comfort. 

But deep down, I’ve being doing something else that I don’t often speak about publicly and it’s time to really open up. 

I’ve been advocating. As best as I can. With my position as a native speaker of this idea of what “Australian English” is.

I’ve been challenging you all to see that there is not 1 way to speak. 

And why?

Because until people stop saying “You’ve got a strong accent… Where are you from?” I’m going to have to keep fighting. 

See, this phrase makes us feel small. 

It makes us feel like an outsider.

Stop it

I’ve received it. While living abroad you get a running commentary on how you sound when speaking another language. But that’s ok. 

 

This is being said against people who are not just living abroad. 

Against people who are here in their home. Trying to feel at home. Trying to feel accepted. Trying to get merit for their hard work. And it is not ok.

There is no such thing as a strong accent. We all have an accent, so who is it to say how strong it is?

If I go and live in London, my “strong accent” will be registered there too. 

How can I keep anyone happy? 

It’s all based on the context of my listener. 

And this shows me, logically, that no accent that is superior to another.

There is no such thing as a strong accent. The comment is rude and inflammatory. Saying someone has a strong accent shows your listener bias. Strong against what? Strong against yours? Who are you to judge?

 

So stop saying this phrase. 

And call it out if you hear it being used.

It is not ok. 

It’s xenophobic and belittling. 

So speak up. 

Together we need to eliminate this kind of language from the vernacular.

 

Promise me?

Because by the time I meet someone at Voice Science who is wanting to work on their “strong accent”, it’s much too late for me to be the first person to tell them that THIS CONCEPT DOES NOT EXIST.

 

And my question is, how long has that person been held back because of the false belief that their English is not good enough.

 

There is no RIGHT way to speak English. But there is a right way to listen. Good listening involves flexibility, tolerance, effort. 

 

There is no one way to speak English and trust me, in time, the Australian accent won’t necessarily sound like me (I hope).

 

Sure, you need to be clear if you want your message to get across but I’m the last person here telling you, you’re wrong if you sound different from me. In fact, I like it. I feel more at ease with different sounds, than sounds like my own. You get my positive bias.

 

No accent is superior to another.

And let me let you in on a secret. 

If there really is an accent that is superior to another, it is an accent that shows you speak more than one language. Because we all know, that is the better position to be in. Better 2 or 4 languages than 1, right?

It makes sense, no?

 

Until we get this conversation happening more in Australia, we will continue to see more barriers and negative bias in the workplace. 

 

If people make reference to your “strong accent” see this as a chance to educate someone who is not as linguistically educated or insightful as you. 

 

Don’t be held back. 

Speak up.

Call it out.

Promise?

 

Thank you so much for watching and being here. 

Take care and remember your voice and message matter, immensely. So speak. Make a difference. Empower others. Fight for your rights. Fight for anyone you see being sidelined and have a great week.