Accents and Dialects in the US: Part 2

Last week’s post  looked at accents and dialects in the United States.  It asked the question:

Does a person’s accent or dialect affect how others view them?

The answer to this question has become more relevant as more job applicants search for jobs outside of their geographic area.  Stereotyping based on an applicant’s accent or dialect might impact hiring, pay rate and advancement.

A study at Stanford University looked at the effects Southern vs Standard accents had on perceptions of speakers.  The study looked to see if Southern accented speakers were seen as less wealthy, less intelligent, more friendly and more aggressive.

The data suggested that accent alone is a strong enough social cue to “trigger shifts in the social perception of speakers.” It also supported the hypothesis that Southern accented speakers would be perceived as less intelligent and less wealthy.  It did not support the hypothesis that Southern accented speakers would be perceived as more friendly or more aggressive.

Other studies have suggested that strong regional accents and dialects from other parts of the United States may affect hiring decisions.  But an accent may not always be detrimental, sometimes an accent can be beneficial.  For example: an employer may look for someone with a regional accent to work with clients in that region because those clients may put more trust in the speaker with an accent they are familiar with.

So should you change your accent?  There is not one right answer to that question.  An accent or dialect is part of who you are, a part of your heritage.  The idea of modifying it can be a touch subject and a difficult decision.  If you feel your accent is a distraction or is keeping you from job placement or advancement, you may want to explore accent modification.


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