Southern accents are apparently not highly regarded at the U.S. Energy Department’s largest research facility, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The government workers were ordered to lose their southern accents and the agency hired a speech pathologist at taxpayer expense to initiate the “accent neutralization” process.
Accent neutralization classes are reportedly commonplace for workers hired from foreign countries to work for an American company, Some businesses offer, and in some cases require, such classes for folks where “strong regional accents” exist; like Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, according to NBC News. But the order to drop the Southern accents by the Energy Department entity is the first known time such accent neutralization courses have been mandated by a government agency.
Lisa Scott, the speech pathologist hired to train government employees in Tennessee to lose their regional accent, said her class did not seek to “stigmatize Southern accents.”
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory speech therapists also said, “Many people who live and work in a particular region may have no need or desire to change. But for people working with people from other regions, they could benefit from having their accent neutralized.”
The therapist hired by the federal government to retrain speech patterns added that the problems with the perception of her course which created a multitude of backlash, stems from the way the accent neutralization class was defined in an internal memo to the government employees.
“It came across in such a way that some people interpreted it that their Southern accent was problem.”
An excerpt from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory memo about the course offered by a “nationally certified speech pathologist and accent reduction trainer” sent to the Energy Department employees:
“Feel confident in a meeting when you need to speak with a more neutral American accent and be remembered for what you say and not how you say it.”
After multiple complaints from employees, the six-week “Southern Accent Reduction” course was cancelled by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The Energy Department facility claims the course was only scheduled in response to a “request by an employee.” A 2012 report in Scientific American stated that studies have shown that a “Southern twang pegs the speaker as comparatively dimwitted, but also likely to be a nicer person than folks who speak like a Yankee.” A dating survey cited by NPR found that Southern accents are widely deemed the “nation’s sexiest.”
What do you think about the federal government sending workers to an accent neutralization class?
[Image Via: Knox Blogs]