In this lesson, you will learn how to speak British. Learn my quick British accent tips to improve your accent and pronunciation.

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Learn How to Speak with a British Accent

In this lesson, I’m going to teach you some quick accent tricks that you can apply to sound more British. This is perfect for people living in the UK who want a clearer accent, or those who just love the sound of British English and are interested in improving their pronunciation.

To begin, we will focus on removing some common Americanisms, in order to make you sound more British. These are influences on your accent that you may have picked up from watching American TV or from American people.

In the second part of the lesson, I will then teach you how to refine your British accent with tricks and tips that are uniquely British.

Part One: Removing Americanisms to Improve Your British Accent

An Americanism is a word, phrase or specific pronunciation that is used primarily by Americans. Identifying and removing these from your vocabulary will improve your accent and make you sound more British.

How to Sound British: Remove Americanisms
How to Sound British: Remove Americanisms

British English vs American English Words Stress Differences

A good way to start improving your British accent is to be aware of the differences between the word stress for American English and British English. In British English the stress tends to be on the first syllable, whereas in American English, the stress is often on the second syllable.

Let’s review these words as an example: detail, debut, massage, café

In British English these sound like: ‘DEE-tail’, ‘DE-but’, ‘MASS-age’, ‘CA-fé’

In American English the words sound like: ‘De-TAIL’, ‘de-BUT’, ‘mass-AGE’, ‘ca-FE’.

Listen below for the difference. First I pronounce the word in British English, followed by American English.

Final /r/ Isn’t Pronounced in British English

In British English we don’t pronounce the final /r/ in words. It’s there in the spelling, but it’s just there to trick you. For example:

better /ˈbet.ə/
butter /ˈbʌt.ə/ 
brother /ˈbrʌð.ə/

Sometimes, when Americans are doing a joke impression of the British accent, they say, ‘bett-ah’. To their ears, the word ‘better’ sounds like it’s got a ‘ah’ at the end of it. In fact, the sound that we have here is a schwa ‘ə’. It’s unstressed, so it shouldn’t be a big sound. Make the final syllable a small sound, with a schwa:

Don’t Pronounce a Flapped /t/

A flapped /t/ is where a /d/ type of sound is used instead of a /t/. This is considered to be poor pronunciation. It is also the main Americanism I hear my students using. It is becoming increasingly common among native British speakers too! 

British English

kitty litter /ˈkɪt.i ˌlɪt.ə/
little letter /ˌlɪt.əl ˈlet.ə/
bitter lettuce /ˌbɪt.ə ˈlet.ɪs/

American English: *Interpreted spellings used

‘kiddy lidder’ /ˈkɪd.i ˌlɪd.ə/
‘liddle ledder’ /ˌlɪd.əl ˈled.ə/
‘bidder leddis’ /ˌbɪt.ə ˈlet.ɪs

Change /ɑː/ to /ɒ/

The final Americanism to change in your speech involves learning a vowel sound and making a shift.

Example words; hot, got, bottom, cop

The American accent pronounces these words with an /ɑː/ vowel, which makes them sound like:

‘haht’, ‘gaht’, ‘bahttom’, ‘cahp’

The British English accent pronounces a different vowel called /ɒ/. Instead, these words are pronounced:

hot, got, bottom, cop


Part Two

Improve Your British Accent with these Tips

These accent tricks are little tweaks to make you sound more British

Add a Yod /j/ for a Posh British Accent

In British English we add a /y/ sound to some words, which doesn’t happen in American English.

Example words; duty, duke, stupid

British English: *interpreted spellings used

‘dyuty’ /ˈdjuː.ti/

‘dyuke’ /djuːk/

‘styupid’ /ˈstjuː.pɪd/

American English: *interpreted spellings used

‘doody’ /ˈduː.di/

‘dook’ /duːk/

‘stoopid’ /ˈstuː.pɪd/

Use the /ʌ/ Vowel Instead of /ɜː/

Here’s another vowel change that you need to learn to improve your British accent. The vowels in question here are CUP /ʌ/ and GIRL /ɜː/. Example words: worry, curry, hurry…

British English: *interpreted spellings used

‘wurry’ /ˈwʌr.i/
‘curry ‘ /ˈkʌr.i/
‘hurry’ /ˈhʌr.i/

American English: *interpreted spellings used

‘werr-y’/ˈwɜːr.i/
‘cerr-y’ /ˈkɜːr.i/
‘herr-y’ /ˈhɜːr.i/

Pronounce Long ‘a’ /ɑː/ in Some Words with ‘ar’ Spelling

In your British accent, you should shift most words that have ‘ar’ spelling to be pronounced with a vowel that we call long ‘a’ /ɑː/.

Example words; transport, path, bath, sample

British English (Received Pronunciation / Southern English accents):

/ˈtrɑːns.pɔːt/
/pɑːθ/
/bɑːθ/
/ˈsɑːm.pəl/

American English:

/ˈtræns.pɔːt/
/pæθ/
/bæθ/
/ˈsæm.pəl/

How to Speak British: Add Glottal Stops

This is when we don’t pronounce the ‘ter’ at the end of a word, or sometimes in the middle. And instead, we make a ‘uh’ sound, ‘uh’, like it’s stuck in our throat.

Although it’s not the standard pronunciation, you might want to include a few occasional glottals. This symbol here /ʔ/ represents a glottal stop in phonetics.

Glottal stop example:

Not a lot of bottles.
/nɒʔ ə lɒʔ əv ˈbɒʔ.əlz/

Lesson Roundup

Thank you for watching this lesson. I really hope that you enjoyed it.

To do a British accent, there are maybe 100 or so of these quick little accent tricks for you to learn.

If you would like to take this further, please check out my British accent training course where I will teach you all of these important British accent effects.


Extend Your Learning

▶︎ Read my article on How to get a British Accent

▶︎ Learn more about the glottal stop for a casual British accent.

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Author

Jade Joddle grows your confidence and skill to shine when speaking English.

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