Talking diversity: how accent discrimination affects SA

Tuesday is all about South Africa's heritage. It's a chance to celebrate our identities but not everyone is joining the party. Experts say the country is plagued by accent discrimination. Courtesy #DStv403

JOHANNESBURG - South African heritage is a subject for celebration but not all expressions of that heritage are celebrated.

Experts say the country is plagued by accent discrimination.

READ: SA marks Heritage Day

It's not always obvious but it starts the moment we open our mouths.

Research suggests we judge each other, based on the way we speak.

One study claims nearly 30-percent of people suffered accent discrimination in the UK where many people are first-language English speakers.

Here in South Africa, fewer than 10-percent of people have English as a home language but people relate how English fluency and particular accents are expected in certain contexts.

Linguist, Gilles Baro says accent discrimination is real: a product of our colonial past.

Baro said, "the powerful, the ones with high status, get to decide which way of speaking is the most acceptable."

Some people believe accents have real consequences.

READ: District Six residents want to reclaim a piece of history

Students shared their thoughts that a certain accent is expected in the job market.

Barro says we should place more value on other languages, starting in the classroom.

He said, "they need to not only attend courses on other languages like an isiXhosa class or isiZulu class but to be taught chemistry, math in those languages."

"If we want them to become multi-lingual, if we want to empower these other languages, they need to start from then on.'

South Africans often talk about diversity but talk is cheap, without our accents!


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