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Your Accent:do You Think It Makes People Judge You Unfairly?

I recently relocated from Nigeria to join my husband who lives in  the Uk.I had a job back home and sorry if i sound conceited but i was actually quite good at what i did.I had glowing referals from my colleagues and superiors alike and was eligible for a promotion at the time of resignation.I moved over to the Uk and i will say at this point had been coming over for hols quite alot so was quite reasonable in my expectations.I set about looking for a job and had to deal with alot of crap like'ooh you have don't have uk experience'even though i was applying for a job that was basically the same as what i did back home or even more technical.I sincerely believe that the way i spoke was a factor but one they would never admit.I endured and eventually got a job at this really lovely company and is where i feel i would be able to get forward in my career.

My managers and team leaders are ok and all and i had a really nice induction to welcome me.My team mates are the annoying ones.I do know i don't have the  'british' accent but i speak perfect,concise and clear english language.I actually studied english as my first degree and i am  quite a  fluent user of the language.heck i speak better english than every single one of them.But i have come to notice that the way they relate to me is quite different and they always and i mean always say they do not understand me even when i know they did.Its really frustrating and annoys me because i work with this people and i know i am far more intelligent than they are.I have just resolved to be quite diligent at my work and  care less on how they relate to me.I really cannot be bothered to get past their silly prejudices.They never admit they are prejudiced as they know that could portend problems if i claim discrimnation.

I let them know that everyone is affected by their enviroment and that there is something called mother tongue interference in how we speak  a  2nd language as english is indeed that  for me.I also noticed that so many other people have funny accents eg people from up north in the uk,eastern europeans,asians, caribeans etc and these people never keep saying they can't understand.To be honest i don't understand their grammar and accents as well and try to listen carefully.Like one of my colleagues is from leicester and she says 'you what' when she menas to say 'excuse me' or 'pardon'.I am appalled at both her written and spoken tenses but will never descend to their level of judging her based on that.

I am proud of my heritage and this does not mean i speak heavy yoruba laced english.My spoken english is quite fluent just don't speak it like them.Anyone who has had similar experiences in the house?

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Very serious matter; and better appreciated by folks who have worked abroad.

My experience has not been exactly exciting. Interestingly, english is the only language I speak- and I speak it well.

Some colleagues and superiors would use your "thick" accent to try to put you down simply because they might feel

threatened by a bright, black person.

On your part you must simply make the effort to speak clearly, and quite understandbly so, because North Americans

aren't simply used to our accent. The thing is everyone has an accent, and that's the beauty in diversity.

Even George Soros (google him if you havent heard of him), has a "thick" eastern european accent!

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When an White English person is always constantly saying "Sorry" or "I beg your pardon" when you speak to them within an audible range, it because most of the time they are *intimidated" by you due to the fact that your are

not the "stereo-typical" african that they always see on TV!!!

And more importantly you are more qualified and more intelligent than them,

THe best thing to do to put them in their place is to "Ignore Them" for a while, they will get the message and will mellow!!!

Dont be bothered by it,

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Always be yourself and do your job well .Fight for your rights and ignore them .When they know you are more qualified and good at work,you must expect them to gang up and conspire and try to perceive you as inferior to them.To me ,how you speak the language is not the big issue but the Brain and Energy .

Aim for the top and dont let them distract you in any form.There prob is BAD belly,Jealousy and they feel threatened because they know they ll soon be serving you.Cant change the way i speak ,not as good as yours and i am discovered to be for the top,they mocked me,blocked opportunities but still,they noticed me .You cant compare GCSE with a degree,Can YOU?

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@ poster,

i feel you, had the same problem, took me more than a yr to figure it out, this is/was how i resolved it.

started watching more british Tv (Coronation street etc) and less american shows like CSI,

Nigerians are more influenced by the american culture than british so i appreciate it might be difficult,

I Started hanging out with work colleagues but keeping my dignity (no pub crawling), they get use to the way you talk and apart from better communication they tend to know u better, also i started talking a bit slower and more body gesture.

If you try and copy a particular accent say scottish or SE london, u will struggle, be yourself and have your accent, dont fit into theirs, its just like listening to a white man trying to speak english, it cld be very annoying

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@Esosele what do you mean by "Typical Nigerian warped mentality" why is everything from naija termed bad? what is wrong with naija mentality? doesnt the average brit have his own "mentality", thats what makes us who we are. we keep fighting our identity and making a futile effort at it,

@ poster some advices here are really spot on especially the ones from Nos, obalende Elosela, you are already doing just fine but maybe just loosen up a bit, u come across to me as a bit uptight (pls dnt take it personal)

Wish you well!

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people with their original accents have it easier, imo.

a lot of them dont know this.

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All opinions respected.

My view is that I don't subscribe to the idea of going out of my way to do team bonding. I partake in only what I am interested in and it works for me. 

THERE MUST BE SOME REASONABLE GAP/DISTANCE BETWEEN PEOPLE in d workplace.

I think the original poster is already doing enough team bonding. they are not best friends in the office. everyone is there to add value - team bonding only enhancing d value adding goal.

tumufulu (not sure if thats d right spelling) also mentioned keeping conversations official. well, i partly agree with this because don't want to stereotype d whole oyinbos - here is the approach i take:

1.) You can intuitively weigh if a person is just making conversation with you because he has to (i.e. part of his job so he can't avoid it). typical signs include talking about weather and delayed trains time and time again all d time when on lunches/dinners. if so, then be official.

2.) If you intuitively think the person is nice and is actually talking with you on par (not `talking down' on you, respects that you are a skilled immigrant not an asylum seeker, friendly, etc) then by all means do not be official with such nice people. Many english people are nice. they r not all racists. 

as for accent, please as long as you are sure that ur english is fine - DO NOT CARE! Investment Banks have offices in japan, hong kong with many workers there having stronger accents than naija one. yet front-office traders still communicate across d globe effectively despite their ehavily accented japanese/hong kong colleagues.

peace.

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I quite agree with most of what you posted.

I also need to point out that the professional UK workplace is a little different from others and so a comparison with what takes place in the U.S environment may not be appropriate. I have found that people here appear to be more sensitive to team bonding and will continue to repeat it in different ways and actions when they think you are not bonding. It doesn't negate the fact that one participates in many activities with them, but they give more weight to certain activities and I realise that going to the pub is one such activity. It is usual of Nigerians not to want to go to the pub with them as it may be uninteresting to you if you don't drink, or consider it unreligious to be near alcohol and sometimes their jokes and discussions may also not be of interest.

My general advice in this matter is that it is not a wrong thing to follow your mind, but flexibility can be exercised in some regards. In addition, we may have to go out of our way to do things in some instances. As for some of the carribean folks, we Nigerians and them are like Oil and water!. We do not mix.

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Thanks for your comments Siena. Its obvious you must be an intelligent person.

To be an effective team member, you must be prepared to be flexible. You don't have to participate in activities that you like. You must make an attempt to participate in what they like as well. When you are with them, it gives them little opportunity to engage in gossip about you. I started attending badminton session not because I knew how to play but because I wanted to learn few things from them. I have difficulty in hearing them at times and I don't pretend about it. I ask them if I don't understand them.

Like a poster said earlier, some of them can be dangerous to deal with but not all. Even Black British can be more dangerous at times. You may consider inviting them to participate in things you like doing.

Don't let accent be an hindrance to your career growth. We are in their country and we shouldn't expect them to change for us. It has to be the other way round.

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abi o.

I dont know how they understand bullshit like Cockney and try to act like a Naija accent is so out of the ordinary. Nonsense.

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If they tell you they can't understand you tell them the same thing and go about your business. Thats how other Nigerians in America handle them and they quickly understand when they figure out you don't give a flying f.

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KarmaMod - Let me clarify the statement I made with regard to tea making as I've noticed that some people here will prefer every little details to enable them understand like kindergarten pupils.

White British take a lot of tea and therefore they don't consider it degrading to make tea for their colleagues. However, when they continue to make tea for you without you making any attend to reciprocate this once in a while, they usually look at it like an insult. Even your boss will come to your office to make tea for you. We Naijas like what is called "awuf". Forgive me if you cannot find that in your dictionary. So, that is the reason why I took it upon myself to make tea in the morning even though I make the least tea in the office.

It is part of their culture and you must try as much as possible to respect that. If you don't want to make tea for anybody, anytime they ask if you'll like to take tea, just tell them no and thank them politely. But that will not help your relationship with anybody in the office.

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@poster

Have you seen white people who work in companies in Nigeria? Do you see how they only talk and whisper amongst themselves as a group? Do they care to go with you to any lunch or any outing or even learn to speak the way you speak? Do they even say hello to you in the morning? So, why are you trying to make them to like you when you go and work in their country? Dont you think you should just concentrate and do your work instead of caring who and who likes you?

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I wonder where it is said worldwide that when the white man comes to work in Africa, he learns the African ways just to feel accepted. Never, it is still the same colonial mentalism of our black brothers and sisters that makes them want to blend and flow with the white mans ways, all in the vague perception of seeking acceptance. When you do your work properly, noone judges you unfairly, but to change your accent just because you want to be judged fairly, is nothing but arrant nonsense.

To those of you who thinks you have to be accepted by the white you work with, i just pity you.

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@ all your comments xcept that of busy body which i will not do the honour of remarking upon,thanks.i have taken all your advice and will endeavour to try to integrate.I really do not want it to narrow it down to race lines as i believe that having the racism victim mindset actually hinders progress.|All those blacks in america who drop out of school in high school get on the dough and then moan racism really irritate me.We can see people like obama,bill cosby etc who have made something out of thier lives even though we all know its not easy.They are indeed really nice brits and as i stated earlier my team leader and my manger who are white are nice and even go out of their way to help me when they see i am struggling especially during my training.i just think as someone rightly said some of them cannot fathom the fact that i do not drink and smoke.one of my colleagues the liberal one joked by saying'you must be very healthy but also very unhappy'.I had a good laugh and he even said i might be a good role modela as he wants to stop smoking.I also never really mention religion except when they had a company outing at thorpe park on a sun and i said i wouldnt be able to make it cos i had to go to church.So all in all i will try to go for more lunches and also activities as its a company that belives in work-life balance so they is always one thing or the other to do.As for the accent i guess with time they get used to it as i have had to get used to some of theirs as well.But all said and done some people have prejudices they cannot set aside and i will not go out of my way force liking me down their throats.

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@Damiso

Sounds more like a personality clash than anything. Maybe they think you are a snob because you don't go to the pub with them or on coffee/tea breaks and stuff. Whatever the case try not to play victim in all of this and continue to make strides to get on with your colleagues as you say you have been doing and that, believe you me, will prove more beneficial in the long run. The UK workplace is very different from the Nigerian in that a lot of emphasis is also put on how well you interact with colleagues and contribute to the team, whether that be socially or work wise, as well as how you perform in your role.

Unfortunately drinking is a culture traditionally ingrained in most Britons, most kids mark their first age of independence (16) by having a drink but there are still plenty of people who would not hold anything against someone like yourself or I who did not touch the stuff and so it is ok to socialise with them every now and again just to team bond if anything. If you are seen as someone who can let their hair down and have a laugh then you should be fine, accent has nothing to do with it. It is not unheard of for men who can hardly speak English in the UK bond very well with other English men over a game of football and a pint or even a can of coke if necessary.

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Damiso - I perfectly understand your plight as I was in that same position few months ago. I cannot categorically tell you that the situation has changed completely because some of my colleagues still have little difficulty understanding me. Although it has improved considerably compared to when I started my first job in the UK. It is even disadvantageous if your workplace is full of Africans/or maybe foreigners as most people will prefer to speak in the local ascent which will give you little or no opportunity to learn the British ascent.

When I moved from my former workplace which was full of Nigerians to my current job which is full of white British. To make it worse, I was the only black person in my dept which has a total work force of 43 staff. I made up my mind on the first day to try as much as possible to avoid being a weirdo. I started going to the pub with my colleagues (where I always ensure that discussions are centred around me to avoid being bored because of my inability to take beer). I tell them things about my country and make sure that they understand that I need time to understand their culture. Frankly, they got the gist and they are always doing things to help. They asked me to join the football team, badminton team, etc, which I oblige without any fuss. We all go to the gym every Wednesday during lunch and they are helping me to learn how to play badminton presently. They now understand my ascent and I understand theirs as well.

As far as work is concern, I make sure that my work speaks volume about me. Even though, I am in a senior position, I have never noticed any form of envy or jealousy from them (Please note that not all of them are racists - There are loveable and tolerant ones among them). They assisted me to settle in when I just came and they are still helping me with things till today.

My advice - Always try to tell them about yourself and your country. Ask about their family (they appreciate that a lot). Let them know that they should try to help you to understand their culture to enable you blend with them. Let them feel important by asking them to help out with office work. Mingle with them by going to the pubs (you dont necessarily have to take alcohol) and gyms. Discuss sports with them and know which football clubs they are in support of.

Finally, ensure that you don't always sit at your desk lazily all day expecting them to make tea for you. Try and make tea for them once in a while. I have adopted an approach of making tea for everyone in the morning before settling to work.

I can assure you that if you can do all the above, things will improve considerably.

Best of luck.

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To answer your question: Yes you are treated poorly if your accent isn't understandable. Also just because you did English back home don't mean jack here. So loosen up and mingle with the people you work it. Maybe you will learn a few things from them. You need a good accent to get ahead. Let's not even kid ourselves with that. It isn't a fair world out there so do what you gotta do!

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poster, you never see anything, you think say the people wey dey shout discrimination and rasicm, you think say them dey shout for nothing? You, black person, black nigga, come all the way from your country, to come dey do the same job wey white people think say na their exclusive preserve? you think say them go flow with you? Wetin concern you with wether them talk to you or not, don't you know an evergae british man/woman is snubbish? more so to a black nigga? I just pity you, you will get more frustrated when you try to relate with them un officially. My advice to you, never relate to them out of anything but officially, don't joke or crack issues with them, don't smile or laugh with them, they actaully hate it when you smile or laugh with them, you don't belong with them, don't you get it?

You said the worst culprit is a black carribean, dont you know the caribean people hate Africans? why, because they think our forefathers sold them to slavery, thats why an average caribean nigga hates an african nigga. Dont listen to those advices of people saying you should relate with them, when they come to work in Nigeria, do they relate with other black people in their midst,, no, they talk to white people like themselves.

If you need help, i will send you hot werepe, just pour it on each of their seats, werepe go make them respect you henceforth, white man my foot.

What i actually hate are Nigerians trying to copy the way the English man speaks, and Nigerians who want to prevent themselves from relating with you because they were born and bred in the UK, but you were not, bad riddle, just do your work, when its time to move on, move on and thats it.

Buy a walkman, with speakers, when you are at your seat, put the speakers on, and listen to loud music, that is the way you earn their respect, keep a distance from them. It all worked for me.

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@ elosela

I never said i spoke 'perfect english'.i said i percieved prejudice based on my 'accent'that is the way my english sounds.As i said in my original post and which you also reiterated by saying the way you sound really should not matter as people's accents are affected by the enviroment that is why i have a Nigerian accent because i am nigerian and raised in nigeria and someone from manchester has a mancunian one.I do not have a problem as to how you as long as you can pass your msg across.what i do appreciate is the subtle ways i am made to feel awkward because of the way i sound.also about tembonding i do participate in team lunches and also activities we take part in the team.For instance during the olympics we all had decorate our offices to reflect the olympic spirit which i actively participated in to try to integrate but still felt a cold barrier esp among some of the members of the team.Its a really small team and i have found it difficult breaking o the clique as i get along well with my team leader and one of my team members who i have noticed is quite liberal.this clique even do not like the TL and also make fun of the dept manager.The pub outings  are after work and they are basically for 'drinks'

which i have said i get bored of since i do not drink.

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@ elosela

I never said i spoke 'perfect english'.i said i percieved prejudice based on my 'accent'that is the way my english sounds.As i said in my original post and which you also reiterated by saying the way you sound really should not matter as people's accents are affected by the enviroment that is why i have a Nigerian accent because i am nigerian and raised in nigeria and someone from manchester has a mancunian one.I do not have a problem as to how you as long as you can pass your msg across.what i do appreciate is the subtle ways i am made to feel awkward because of the way i sound.also about tembonding i do participate in team lunches and also activities we take part in the team.For instance during the olympics we all had decorate our offices to reflect the olympic spirit which i actively participated in to try to integrate but still felt a cold barrier esp among some of the members of the team.Its a really small team and i have found it difficult breaking o the clique as i get along well with my team leader and one of my team members who i have noticed is quite liberal.this clique even do not like the TL and also make fun of the dept manager.The pub outings  are after work and they are basically for 'drinks'

which i have said i get bored of since i do not drink.

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I'd think with all the different people living there, accent would not be such a big problem.

That is so long as it is clear and understandable.

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Thanks guys for all your inputs and i think i really do have to take to blonde1's advice by being dilligent and working my way up the ladder so as to interact with more open minded people.I really do not think its a race thing per se as one of my colleagues and if i may say one of the worst culprits is BLACK.she is of carribeam descent but was born and bred in the UK.I have also taken a closer look at the situation and i feel she might be slightly threatened by me as i have been given more responsiblities and a slighlty higher pay despite the fact that she has been here for a long time.So I think the fact that i talk differently gives her an opportunity to kind of get at me.I am above all that as i actually just see this job as a means to an end and not where i intend to end my career. Another thing that makes them uncomfortable is the fact that i do not smoke so never join them on their 'coffee' or 'smoke' breaks as i prefer to call them.I also never join them on their team outings at the pub.Dont get me wrong i am all for team bonding and all and do go for team lunches if its just for a meal.But i dont drink and also my personal religious beliefs are against pub outings.So all in all to cut the story short they all think i am one WIERDO though i am not bothered by what the think as my self confidence and belief in myself far transcends what a bunch of people think.Its just a little lonely as i think interaction with your team should be a little more than the cool proffesional courtesy we have at the moment.Its all good sha,i have nairaland to escape to when less busy.

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Don't worry. Some of them may indeed have problems understanding a foreign accent. And yes, people who speak English as a foreign language are better at understanding other non-native accents, while native speakers understand other native speakers' accents without problem. I do not know why it works like this, but this is not limited to Nigerians and Brits. Australia and New Zealand have a distinctive accent/pronunciation and on the immigrant forums there are a lot of European non-native speakers with complaints similar to yours, so it's not necessarily race.

It usually depends on how much you listened to a specific accent. Most people in the UK understand the Eastern European accent now, because there are a lot of Eastern Europeans there and they learned to understand it. I had a problem understanding the Chinese accent when I first heard it, I asked for everything to be repeated a couple of times and I imagine they felt bad about it, but I genuinely didn't understand. After a few months of contact with it I have no problems anymore. So maybe they simply never heard your kind of accent. In this case, they'll learn. If it is prejudice, then the only solution is to work your way up the ladder so that you have contact with more educated and open-minded people - as you say, there's no problem with your supervisors and managers.

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I can quite understand how you feel. I have not had such problems largely because I speak clearly, though, there are few times where I have had to repeat what I said. I am also capable of speaking with a clear British accent when really necessary.  

You are right that there are several people from the areas that you mentioned who do not even speak as clearly as the average Nigerian. We were once in a social outing and I found myself echoing every word that a Scottish person was saying so that the Slovenian (who did speak good English) amongst us could understand, as the person was finding it difficult to comprehend the "Scottish english". The Scottish person had to say that it was an irony that I was the one assisting the Slovenian to understand English as mine was clearer. Do not worry about your colleagues. If you don't have the problem with your Supervisor, then don't bother yourself much. In some establishments, You will find that there is this subtle discrimination also to those from the North of England and Scotland that is similar to what you face, because of their accents. It is even career limiting for them and you find out that most people who are from those areas of the UK and get to senior executive positions in London, speak English like those from the south.

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Sorry, I can understand where you're coming from. But are you sure your race is not the reason you're being discriminated against ? What are the races of your other co workers ? I don't think it's the way you speak. Lots of Scottish workers in UK and we all know how horrible their accent is.

At least you've got a great job, be happy about that. There would always be racists,sexists and bigots in the world. Get used to it.

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