In this lesson, I will teach you how to do accents. We will learn an improvisation technique. Apply this technique and you will be able to learn any accent.
People Who Know How to Do Accents Have a ‘Good Ear’
Some people are very good at picking an accent up just by hearing it spoken. Such people have a good ear for sound and because of this speaking in different accents is a natural talent for them. Most people, however, need to learn how to do accents. You probably won’t be good at doing accents at first, but with practice, you will make big improvements.
Research Your Accent First
To learn how to do an accent, you will need to do a little research and preparation first. Every accent has characteristic pronunciation features which stand out as being different to other accents. By studying what these are, you can concentrate your effort on learning these features.
To give an example, in the Cockney English accent, the ‘th’ sounds in words are never pronounced. The word ‘bath’ /bɑːθ/ is pronounced with a final /f/ sound instead. Therefore, to speak with a convincing Cockney accent you must never pronounce the ‘th’ sounds in words. This is what’s known as an accent cheat!
Whatever accent you are trying to learn, you should research its accent features before you start. There will be three or four things you can adapt in order to make your accent sound a lot more convincing. Sometimes you need to change a particular sound, but other times it is just the pronunciation of a single word. For example, if I were doing a Canadian accent, I would pronounce the word ‘out’ /aʊt/ as ‘oot’ /uːt/ because this pronunciation is stereotypically Canadian.
To research the accent you want to learn, you can look for examples on YouTube. When listening to the example accent, make a few notes about the characteristic accent features. Wikipedia is a good resource for your accent research too, but note that some knowledge of linguistics is required to understand it. To give an example, here you can read about the accent features of Cockney English.
When you put all the different characteristic accent features together and speak, people will be impressed by your ability to mimic the accent you have learnt.
Focus Your Accent Training Efforts
If you want to learn how to do accents, you must focus your efforts on learning one at a time. This is because jumping between different accents confuses your brain and makes them all begin to sound similar!
I advise you to practise one accent per day to get the best results from your accent training. Only when you have successfully managed to learn an accent should you swap to learning a new accent. Slowly but surely you will expand your repertoire of different accents.
How to Do Accents: Follow These Steps…
Who is Your Stereotypical Accent Character?
Every accent has a stereotypical character or personality associated with it. When you imagine the accent you are trying to learn in your mind’s eye, who is it speaking to you? Is the person young or old and what are their likes and dislikes? Let your imagination run wild and start speaking in the accent, imagining yourself as the stereotypical accent character.
Learn Accent-specific Vocabulary
To learn how to do accents, you also need to adapt your vocabulary to fit the accent you are learning. This is because people don’t all use the same words to communicate. Being able to shift your choice of words in this manner will make your accent much more convincing.
Does the accent you want to learn have any original greetings or slang that the people use? For example, someone from Birmingham would say, ‘Alright our bab?’ as a hello. When you are speaking in your accent be sure to include as much of its original vocabulary, idioms or expressions as possible because this is what gives each accent it’s particular flavour.
How to Do Accents: Mimic Famous People
People are often motivated to learn accents because it is fun and funny to speak in different accents. One good way of practising your skills is to mimic famous lines from TV shows and films.
In the video below, I talk about how mimicking what you hear on TV and in films helps you to develop your accent skills.
Here are some common iconic movie lines that people like to mimic:
“I’ll be back!” Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator (1984)
“Show me the money!” Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire (1996)
“You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off” Michael Caine in The Italian Job (1969)
Practise Your Accent by Improvising
Learning accents should be fun! Play around with the accent you are learning by saying random things. If you can get a friend to speak in the accent with you, do a character roleplay and say whatever comes to mind.
Record Yourself Speaking in the Accent
Of course you want to know how you sound when speaking in your new accent: that’s why you have to record yourself. When you play back your speech in your new accent take a constructive approach.
What words and phrases do you say well in the new accent? Are there any key sounds in particular where you slipped up or made errors consistently? With this knowledge in mind, you can focus your training and practice on mastering the tricky sounds.
Get Help with Your Accent Training
For any accent you are working to master, a little expert training goes a long way. Check out my Clear Accent course if you’re looking to improve your accent or learn the standard British pronunciations.
Extend Your Learning
◼️Watch my video on How to Become an Accent Expert.
◼️Learn about British accents via Gill at EngVid.
◼️ Download my British Accent Training PDF.