UK: Why migrants are hiring accent coaches to sound extra British | United Kingdom Information

London, UK – Tsetso Bikov was born in Bulgaria and grew up there. In 2016 he moved to London for a job.

After graduating from American University in Washington, DC, he didn’t expect his Bulgarian-American accent to be an obstacle.

“I speak English fluently and have never had any problems being understood,” said the 31-year-old. “But most of the time you meet people who just want to interact with someone with a British accent.”

He wanted to create a different perception of himself than that of a foreigner. So he hired Luke Nicholson, a London-based accent coach who runs a company called Improve Your Accent.

Nicholson, who has a soft southern English accent himself, works with non-native, fluent English speakers who want to change the way they speak.

Most of his clients feel intimidated or frustrated during an interview when they are constantly asked, “Where are you from?”

“There’s no reason you should sound more like a native speaker, but a lot of people want,” said Nicholson, who has been an accent coach for more than seven years, working with students and professionals.

In recent years, Brits who want to change their language have also used accent trainers, presumably to avoid being discriminated against. A study from last year found that “broad regional” accents could hinder social mobility.

However, there are psychological problems. Permanent accent training could affect someone’s trust or deepen existing identity struggles.

Shermeena Rabbi, a London-based speech therapist and founder of Unlocking Language, which provides services to help overcome anxiety, stuttering and problems, said that accent coaching could affect an individual’s personality.

“When you are yourself, you are more relaxed and more confident,” she said. “Imagine trying to fake an accent around the clock. It causes a lot of stress and anxiety. “

Business bias, consciously or unconsciously, should be addressed instead, she said.

Shermeena Rabbi is a speech therapist and lives in London [Courtesy of Shermeena Rabbi]”It’s the workforce that needs to change,” she said when quoting the diversity of the UK workforce. “When an employer decides to hire, it is their job to make sure they don’t look down on or intimidate a candidate.”

Rabbi’s clients have physiological and behavioral conditions.

Many believe that something is wrong with their speech, from mumbling to stuttering. Some have asked her to mention her accent. But she said trying to change an accent after the teenage years could cause anxiety, which could lead to incomprehensible other problems like stuttering, using too many fillers like “um, ah, like, um”, or speaking too fast.

“Once you hit your 20s, your communication is your identity,” she said. “It can be mitigated, but I don’t think you can eliminate it.”

In his first few weeks of accent training, Bikov felt tense.

“When I pronounced words the British way I always thought, ‘What would people say? Trying too hard to be British? ‘”

A one-on-one lesson with an accent trainer costs between £ 70 and £ 100 per hour ($ 90 to $ 130). Nicholson’s sessions start at 79 pounds an hour. Bikov spent £ 2,000 on classes.

“If you are a young person with a foreign accent this would be a real problem for you when you start,” said Bikov.

He has a senior position in his sales job and is often better than many of his UK counterparts – something they make fun of.

“Even an accented person can make so many sales,” they said.

But he emphasized the need for these classes to fit into society,

“When you sound British, you appear more educated and knowledgeable. Even though I know these are stereotypes, people still think that if you have a different accent, then you are stupid, ”he said.

“You always come across people who have this racist element, even if they don’t want it.”

Bikov’s international friends haven’t tried an accent trainer, but instead watched videos posted online or listened to podcasts to perfect a British accent.

“My friends had difficult interviews because people make faces or ask them to repeat their answers several times.”

In England, as in much of the world, the way you speak can have an impact on what people think about your social background or education.

Nicholson said a British accent should never be the goal.

He teaches new sounds to be incorporated into language until they are used unconsciously and become natural.

“It’s not about sounding 100% British,” he said, “it’s just about turning to English sounds that people can relate to more easily.”

But amid Brexit, a political event that sparked xenophobia, there are fears that such a devotion to assimilation could lead to a loss of self-esteem.

“There are many reasons why people feel unsafe or unhappy with their voice and language, and sometimes they blame their accent but find in sessions that that was not the problem at all,” Rabbi said.

“I’ve heard and read of encounters where people experience racism because of their accents, and this seems to be linked to Brexit,” she said. “People have had negative experiences with their foreign accent and with Brexit that only increased.”

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