Learning a language is like learning to cross stitch. Or use Windows 95. You have to avoid romanticizing languages (and by the way, culture like that in general, because let’s see who is the handsome one who gets to define it: war and clitoral ablation are also culture, and Windows).
Another thing is that, given our tribal character, we use languages to quickly identify if we are facing one of our own or an outsider, if it is someone is to be trusted or not. And that is precisely why you have to make a special effort not to romanticize .
If we find different accents just a few kilometers away from a place that puts us on the clue that language is not only a product for communication, above all it is a product of differentiation. A form of rapid auditory discrimination. A handicap .
We discriminate against others based on their accent in two ways: consciously and unconsciously .
On a conscious level, the accent not only tells us a lot about the person’s place of origin, but also about their socioeconomic status. In a study on accent change, one of the participants told the linguist Alexander Baratta of the University of Manchester: "If you happen to be from Glasgow, you will be violent. If you are from Liverpool, you will be scum. If you are from Newcastle, you will be clumsy".
On an unconscious level, hearing an accent other than our own automatically activates parts of our brain associated with fight and flight. Even at the hiring level, that process is important, as argued by Dianne Markley , a professor at the University of North Texas (UNT) and the author of a study on the influence of accent on hiring.
To romanticize the language, or the accent, therefore, is not only to romanticize the cross stitch or Windows 95. It is also to romanticize, to elevate the color of the skin from a merely functional category . It is romanticizing your chromosomal sex. Your religion. Your social sect. It is, in short, giving free rein to our natural tendency to discriminate against others for spurious reasons, something for which our brain seems perfectly programmed: