Have you ever heard a "Knock , knock. Who’s there?" joke?  What about something that “makes your hair stand on end”?

William Shakespeare not only wrote great plays, and wonderful, romantic poetry, but this balding, long-dead man from Stratford , so enhanced the English language , that we are still using his words and phrases today. You might have a friend whom you describe as having ‘a heart of gold’ or someone else to whom you say, “Good riddance!”. Maybe certain foods or sounds, “Set your teeth on edge”. Has someone ever made you jealous? Then you were suffering from, “The green eyed monster”.


As well as being a writer historians believe that Shakespeare sometimes appeared on stage as an actor, and I’ve been to many Shakespeare plays over the years; I’ve even seen the film of Henry V, the one with Lawrence Olivier playing the part of the king, but I have to say the dialogue was so upper class, so correct in its every nuance that it made me wonder.  You see Shakespeare was a Midlander, a Warwickshire man. To put that into perspective, a good walker can travel from Stratford on Avon to Birmingham in one day.

Of course, there are upper class Brummies, (that's what we call people from Birmingham), but most Brummies have a flat, definitely not upper class accent. Did Shakespeare sound more like them than like Lawrence Olivier?  I think it’s likely.  
 
If you walk the streets of Stratford today you will find this small market town really crowded, but with tourists, so much so that it is hard to find a local. But pop into the supermarket, or call into the pub for a cooling drink – then you might well hear an authentic Warwickshire accent.

I am a Brummie, but I left the city aged 21 and have only gone back on visits. My accent has been honed over the years by long stays in Scotland, Northern Ireland, London and even Pakistan. I now live in Yorkshire and few ever realise that I’ve ever lived anywhere else. But last week one sharp ear  announced ‘You’re a Brummie aren’t you?” He was the first for a very long time. Yet my daughter, who has never lived in the Midlands except for a few weeks as a new born baby, sometimes surprises me with the way she says certain things. I can only assume she has picked up her accent from me.

I think of other people who live in this area. Most are form Yorkshire, but by no means all. Dave, now in his sixties, left Plymouth in the south west, aged 20, but still has that Devonian burr. Jean has been married to someone from the north east for 40 years, but sometimes you hear her Merseyside accent. Pete is definitely a Tynesider and so on. Emma moved here at 21, but more than 40 years later, with perfect English grammar and grasp of idiom, is still very much a German lady.  Anna  runs a very successful business here, despite her occasional Russian pronunciation.

Your accent is a deep rooted part of who you are.  Even if you are relatively young it is unlikely that you will ever completely change to another accent. So don’t worry if, when learning English, your native accent comes through. Everyone in London would have known Shakespeare wasn’t a southerner and it did him no harm at all. He had a skill with English and this was prized. So concentrate upon English usage above all. If your usual accent is so strong it makes it difficult for you to be understood in English, then it needs some work, but otherwise don’t worry that people will know you aren’t a native speaker. It really isn’t that important.