The terms ‘accent softening’ ‘accent reduction’ and ‘elocution’ are just a few of the ways people describe a desire to make a change in the way they speak, for whatever their personal reason. Some interesting articles in the media recently have been brought to my attention:
A recent report revealed “accent softening” lessons are becoming big business in the UK, especially since the Brexit referendum. Regional accents really are “a bar to social mobility”, according to experts at the University of Manchester, who have found: “We can still sound regional in the workplace, but not too regional.” (Katy Guest in “The Guardian” 31 March 2019).
This is an emotive and complex subject, which people clearly feel strongly about as is evidenced in these articles. However, it really isn’t as simple as being proud or ashamed of one’s accent or heritage. Nor is it acceptable for anyone to stand in judgement of others for the way they speak. There are many reasons why people feel unconfident or unhappy in their voice and speech, and sometimes they may blame their accent but discover through coaching that this is not the issue at all. An actor with a strong regional accent may wish to learn RP or Neutral Standard English as an additional accent, not to change who they are, but to increase the skill set they are offering. Everybody surely has the right of choice.
Anyone who seeks accent softening or reduction, or elocution, or vocal confidence may not know exactly what it is that they want or need – but whether for work or social reasons or simply their own sense of wellbeing, they are seeking a positive change, or personal development. They should not be judged or criticised for this; on the contrary they should be respected.