“That’s not Proper English!” Using Cross-cultural Matched-guise Experiments to Raise Teacher/Teacher-trainees’ Awareness of Attitudes Surrounding Inner and Outer Circle English Accents

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Mattias Jörgen Lindvall-Östling
Mats Deutschmann
Anders Steinvall
Satish Strömberg


From a structural perspective, some English accents (be they native or foreign) carry higher status than others, which in turn may decide whether you get a job or not, for example. So how do language teachers approach this enigma, and how does this approach differ depending on the cultural context you are operating in? These are some of the questions addressed in this article. The study is based on a matched-guise experiment conducted in Sweden and the Seychelles, a small island nation outside the east coast of Africa, where respondents (active teachers and teacher trainees) were asked to evaluate the same oral presentations on various criteria such as grammar, pronunciation, structure etc. Half of the respondents listened to a version that was presented in Received Pronunciation (RP), while the other half evaluated the same monologue presented by the same person, but in an Indian English (IE) accent. Note, that careful attention was paid to aspects such as pacing, pauses etc. using ‘Karaoke technique”. Our results indicate that the responses from the two respondent groups differ significantly, with the Seychelles group being far more negative towards IE than the Swedish group. We try to explain these results in the light of subsequent debriefing discussions with the respondent groups, and we also reflect over the benefits and drawbacks of this type of exercise for raising sociolinguistic awareness among teacher trainees and active teachers. The study is part of a larger project (funded by the Wallenberg foundation) that approaches the challenge of increasing sociolinguistic awareness regarding language and stereotyping, and highlighting cross-cultural aspects of this phenomenon.

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Lindvall-Östling, M., Deutschmann, M., Steinvall, A., & Strömberg, S. (2020). “That’s not Proper English!”. Educare - Vetenskapliga Skrifter, (3), 109-141. https://doi.org/10.24834/educare.2020.3.4