Huw Edwards shows ‘regional’ accent no longer holds you back says former Times editor
Huw Edwards shows that having a ‘regional’ accent is no longer a barrier to success, according to a former Times editor.
In an article for the Guardian, Simon Jenkins argues that regional accents were now welcome – but that ‘correct’ English should still be drummed into children across the UK.
He argues that the south-east centric emphasis on an RP accent had now given way to an acceptance that different people spoke in different ways, with even the “Queen’s accent noticeably different from the way she spoke in the strangulated voice of 40 years ago”.
“In the last century the BBC used to ban regional accents on air and there was a justified outcry. It no longer does,” Simon Jenkins said.
“While a Graham Norton or a Huw Edwards voice is not that of a Stephen Fry, I cannot believe it is held against them, any more than are the voices of Paul McCartney or Geoffrey Boycott.
“Most people can manipulate their accents as they choose. But I think most Britons delight to hear regional accents.”
However, he said that children across the UK should be taught that standard English was “correct” and was against suggesting otherwise “just to protect supposed regional sensitivities”.
“In the 19th century much debate in Wales and Ireland centred around whether the new school system should teach in the medium of English or in then prevalent local tongues,” he said.
“Nationalist intellectuals demanded that English be banned. To radicals such as Daniel O’Connell, this was antiquarian arrogance, denying poor Irish the skills by which their children might escape poverty. It was ‘national suicide’.
“In Wales, Aneurin Bevan said the same of Welsh. English was the language of working-class unity and to deny it to Welsh children was debilitating.”
While “no one wants to see the demise of English dialects” he said that “grammar is different”.
“As long as English is the nation’s language – as well as much of the world’s – its communality, its grammatical accuracy is in everyone’s interest,” he said.
“Accent we can leave to the diversity of the human marketplace. But the gods of grammar we should surely respect.”