What is accent discrimination?

Everybody has an accent. A person’s accent can tell us many things about their age, sex, geographical origin, and even educational level or social class. We make assumptions on the basis of these vocal cues and it’s perfectly normal to do so.
An accent, however, shouldn’t tell us anything about a person’s trustworthiness, competence, professional ability or economic status.
These assumptions are prejudices, and if they end up having an impact on the way a person is perceived and treated, they become a form of discrimination.
Accent discrimination is a form of discrimination based exclusively on how a person speaks.
According to myth, the voice of the Circe goddess was different from that of other gods.
She had a human-like voice, and precisely because of this characteristic she was viewed suspiciously: one of the earliest examples of ‘accentism’!
The Olympians relegated her to the island of Eea, where she met Ulysses.

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Why is accent discrimination a problem?

In the UK, 30% of university students and 29% of university applicants report having been mocked, criticized or singled out in educational settings due to their accents.

In the US, it has been shown that bias against certain ethnic and regional accents can lead to unequal access to employment, housing, and education

Speaking with a regional accent in Germany has been shown to incur a wage penalty of approximately 20% when compared to speaking with a standard German accent.

Recent studies in schools have shown that both teachers and inspectors draw on stereotypical assumptions about accents when evaluating pupils’ and students performance.

Accent discrimination, also called accentism, happens, but it is a phenomenon that is still little known. The general lack of awareness that surrounds it makes it hard to pin down its effects.

Our goals

The CIRCE project has three main goals.

 Investigate how accent discrimination takes place in schools, and how it impacts pupils’ and students life.


Provide students and teachers with resources to develop greater tolerance towards accent variation.

Raise awareness about accent discrimination in school and university settings.

Visit our ‘Resources’ section to read more.

Practical resources

Practical resources

CIRCE develops and curates a wealth of resources for anyone interested in learning more about accent discrimination and taking action.

Explore our data

Results/Explore our data