The Power of Accents
do not only reflect where you are from, they also reflect where you have been. Many people adopt new accents or dialects after having lived abroad or simply by moving to a different part of the country they are born in. But why do some people choose to adopt this new way of speaking? Why ditch your original accent, one which may have been more natural for you? A plausible solution could be that accents do not only reflect where are from and where you have been - they may even reflect where you might want to be, or who you might want to be.
The voice is a powerful channel for the expression of our identity – it conveys information such as gender, age and place of birth, but crucially, it also expresses who we want to be.
I am of the impression that most people have very solid ideas regarding what different accents reflect. But why are we so concerned about how we sound? Shouldn’t we be more focused on what we are saying? Apparently just focusing on the spoken word is not always enough anymore. We live in a world where self-presentation is key and people constantly change their own self in order to be perceived in the best possible way. Isn’t the way people are choosing how to speak similar to the way we purchase and throw away other things in life? Are accents used and then thrown away just like material things such as fashion? And just like wearing the “wrong” clothes, does there exist such a thing as an embarrassing or an “unfashionable” accent? Apparently there
does, because it is obvious that some accents easily gain more respect than others. As an example (without trying to offend anyone) it is quite well known that American or British accents here at CBS often give a better and more professional first impression than, for instance, a Danish accent. This is not just a statement, this is somewhat fact. Research conducted at the University of Chicago in 2010 actually showed the following:
A foreign accent undermines a person’s credibility in ways that the speaker and the listener don’t consciously realize. Because an accent makes a person harder to understand, listeners are less likely to find what the person says as truthful. The problem of credibility increases with the severity of the accent.