For such a small country, the British Isles has an incredible variety of accents and dialects. It’s amazing how different we sound considering we speak the same language. If you are looking to expand your repertoire of British accents, or any accent for that matter, here’s my advice to you – improvise and have fun experimenting with your target accent.
Accent Improvisation Exercise
(1) Imagine your ‘character’: every accent has a life of it’s own. 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 character.
(2) Accent-specific vocabulary: 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.
(3) Engage your ears: if you are practising a new accent, it helps to do a little research before you get practising as it makes the accent much easier to switch into. Can you think of any famous people who speak in the accent you wish to learn? Do a quick internet search for your famous person or target accent and simply listen to the accent as it is being spoken. Really engage your ears as you listen. What stands out about the way words are pronounced? Are any sounds in particular missing? For example, if you’re listening to the Cockney accent, /h/ will be dropped from the beginnings of words such as ‘hard’. By truly listening to an accent you don’t have to be an expert on the phonology of language.
(4) Get Improvising: learning accents should be fun! Play around with your new accent and have fun 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.
(5) Record Yourself: 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.
(5) 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 pronunciations.