Caw Blimey the beautiful singer Paloma Faith has been complaining that people have been taking the rise out of her cockney accent. One of her Professors at Central Saint Martins, where she trained in theatre and stage design, used to mock her pronunciation and she’s been sounding off about it.
A spokesman from the University of the Arts London, which Central Saint Martins is part of , said: The university is home to a diverse community of staff and students from many different backgrounds, and that diversity is a big part of our strength, so we take Paloma’s comments very seriously. We oppose any kind of discrimination and our teaching staff undergo “fairness in selecting students’ training to ensure a level playing field for all applicants”.
Let’s hope that the “fairness in selecting students’ training” extends to when they are training the students. Too many students get confidence knocked out of them for the way they speak. In the arts it’s more likely that students will take it on the chin, notice that it gets them noticed and start using it as part of their image.
This has happened with people like David Hockney, Janet Street-Porter and Tracy Emin. This too may be happening with Paloma Faith, who brands celebrity culture as “silly” and “superficial”. However, sensitive students, can show an outer strength and suffer inside when their accents have been mocked.
I have 2 lecturers who come to me for training who started “dumbing down” their voice and speech when they were made fun of by their tutors at University.
I would always advise that it’s not your accent but the way you use your accent that matters. If you’re going to be a defiant cocky cockney then people will hear that in your accent. If you’re a reasonable speaker and listener then the chances are people won’t notice your accent – and if they do – then you shouldn’t be wasting your time talking to them. Most accents, if they aren’t over strong, are very attractive.
For those who have to do business internationally, it’s important to make sure their spoken English is clearly and easily understood. Americans for instance, are notorious in not understanding English regional accents, which is one reason while dialect coaches on films being shown in America are asked to make sure that accents aren’t too strong.
It’s important to have a clear enough English accent in video conferences between for instance Australian and Indian business people. No matter how brilliant your software team is, they aren’t going to go too far if they can’t communicate in English. This is why voice coaches like me at Max Your Voice, work with people on Accent Neutralisation.
Some people in politics and the legal professions for instance, want to have their original standard English accent restored to them after a sojourn abroad or want to attain a standard English accent. At Max Your Voice, we do both, with care and sensitivity – and a lot of laughs on the way.