Would you prefer your child’s teacher to say ‘bus’ or ‘baars’? How about ‘laugh’ or ‘laargh’?

Research by Dr Alex Baratta at the University of Manchester suggests that trainee teachers are often asked to tone down their northern or midlands accents in the classroom.

Dr Baratta found that many trainees had faced criticism of their accents from mentors and that they had been pressured to adopt a more ‘standard’ pronunciation.

One trainee Dr Baratta spoke to said a mentor had laughed at her Eccles accent while another said an interviewer had even threatened to stop an interview because she spoke with a regional accent.

But teacher trainers at the University of Sunderland are having none of such prejudices – and have urged their trainees to be proud of their northern English tones.

The University of Sunderland’s programme leader for primary education, Michaela Morgans, said, “It is disappointing that some trainee teachers feel pressured into changing their accents.”

“Whilst it is an important aspect of the Teachers’ Standards that all teachers should use standard English and have high levels of articulacy, this does not mean that regional accents should be altered.”

“In fact, within our Initial Teacher Training programmes at the University of Sunderland, we go to great lengths to teach our trainees about the difference between standard English and accent and encourage them to embrace, celebrate and be proud of where they come from.”

“Many of our academic team come from the North of England and the north east in particular. I hope that we demonstrate to our trainees that you can speak accurately and with authority whilst still having a lovely regional accent.”

The University of Sunderland has even included a ‘Mackem Translation Guide’ in its 2019 undergraduate prospectus, which explains the meanings of Mackem expressions such as ‘ha’way’, ‘’marra’ and ‘dinnit’.

Dr Alex Baratta said, “It can be the case that trainee teachers with regional accents are being made to feel that their accents somehow equate to not speaking clearly.”

“There is a need for a balance to be struck, ensuring that students can understand and thus learn from teachers while not completely discarding the unique richness that comes with regional accents.”   

(Featured image courtesy of Ilmicrofono Oggiono, from Flickr Creative Commons)

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