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Accents in the workplace: 'A lot of South Africans face bias every single day'

28 February 2021 1:36 PM
Tags:
Sara-Jayne King
weekend breakfast
accents
podcasts
accent privilege
workplace bias
Tinashe Venge
Amber April
The Brown Girl's Guide

'An accent doesn't define your professionalism'. Sara-Jayne King explores accent privilege with media guests and listeners.

South Africa is proudly a melting pot of different cultures.

It then follows that we should be proud of all our local accents. Or does it?

There's a perception that accents still influence South Africans' employability due to inherent prejudices.

Sara-Jayne King explores the thorny topic of accent privilege on Weekend Breakfast.

Image: 愚木混株 Cdd20 on Pixabay

King chats to entertainment journalist Tinashe Venge and co-host of The Brown Girl's Guide podcast, Amber April.

April explains why she chose to devote a recent episode to unpacking 'coloured' accents in the workplace.

A lot of our peers in the media industry face these kinds of issues. You don't really talk about it but you know it's definitely there.

Amber April, Co-host - The Brown Girl's Guide podcast

A lot of feedback we got on this episode was that... people needed to code-switch. There is this mentality that if you speak in a more formal accent or assimilate to a white accent, it will make you sound more acceptable in the workplace.

Amber April, Co-host - The Brown Girl's Guide podcast

Accent bias is something that a lot of South Africans face every single day.

Amber April, Co-host - The Brown Girl's Guide podcast

But what does it say about us when we feel the need to refine our accents because of the way people perceive us?

Code-switching has also been a thing for Venge since he was a youngster - he says he was groomed to do it in certain environments.

That's the case in a lot of media houses, a lot of advertising agencies and newsrooms across South Africa.

Tinashe Venge, Entertainment journalist

The entertainment journo acknowledges that "accent privilege" has worked in his favour throughout his life.

He spent part of his childhood overseas, where he attended an international school.

I moved back to South Africa with an accent that swung between an American twang at times and at other times I'd pronounce things with a very proper Zimbabwean English accent.

Tinashe Venge, Entertainment journalist

I didn't realise at the time that this would go on to benefit me in my career, for example in job interviews - being able to articulate myself in a certain way gave employers confidence that I could do the job.

Tinashe Venge, Entertainment journalist

Sometimes I would notice that I had fellow colleagues who probably had the same skills and level of experience that I did, that just didn't get the same level of opportunities opening up to them.

Tinashe Venge, Entertainment journalist

Listen to this very topical discussion, which includes CapeTalk listeners' experiences:




28 February 2021 1:36 PM
Tags:
Sara-Jayne King
weekend breakfast
accents
podcasts
accent privilege
workplace bias
Tinashe Venge
Amber April
The Brown Girl's Guide

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