So you're going to learn English and dive into the language of Shakespeare? Don't limit yourself to just a few words when you could be studying many varieties of English in-depth!
Here at Superprof, we think that to learn English properly, you need a good background understanding of the many dialects, cultures and accents. This could be anything from Australian English, to Cockney, a posh Oxford accent or even the general American English you hear in Hollywood films.
No matter the accent - British, American or international, they're all part of the family of the English language!
So what are the different accents? And how can we learn them?
Different Accents In School English Classes
Even if you are taking English lessons as an adult, your first lessons in English speaking were probably at primary or secondary school. Primary school may have introduced you to English, but the real lessons in grammar, conjugation, reading, speaking and holding a conversation usually start in secondary school. But what about the diverse English accents?
Usually in school, you are not taught a particular accent
Many places that teach English as a foreign language with orient their ESOL courses towards achieving the "international accent" in spoken English. This could be in an Anglophone country or internationally. This accent is somewhat "simplified" in comparison to British and American accents, but is still correct in terms of the phonetics.
The international accent, however, is much closer to a US accent than a British accent. Since WWII, the US has gained influence over the English that is spoken in our globalized society, largely thanks to the huge role it plays in international trade, entertainment and culture.
English happens to be the most spoken language globally, and it is the US accent that has most influenced international English.
American and British Accents: The Difference
The three main accents taught in English courses around the globe are the American, British and international accents. Each comes with its own set of phonetics to learn.
If you dream of travelling for work or pleasure, you should know how to adapt to the regional pronunciation and make yourself understood. Speaking English at a professional level will make your CV stand out among the competition.
So what to do if your school doesn't teach an accent, and you can't just board the next flight to London or Los Angeles!
A private English teacher can be a "lifeline" for perfecting your accent. Any native speakers from the US or England will be able to help you work on the fundamentals of an American or British accent.
But first, let's explore the finer details of the English accent.
Here are some English for beginners classes for you.
How To Speak With An American Accent
Is the American accent really that much easier to pick up?
Yes - if you've already cultivated an international accent, it's easier to learn an American accent than a British one. This is because the US and international accents are so similar.
But there's another reason...
Many of us today have been immersed in the American accent our whole lives no matter where we live, through the Internet, music, films and TV series.
Even if you're not a native English speaker, chances are you're more familiar with the American accent than the British one.
One of the chief characteristics of the American accent is that they transform the "t" sound into a "n" or "d" sound if the consonant falls at the beginning of a syllable and in the middle of the word. This can be found in many words...
For example, Americans will pronounce "water" more like "wader". Lighter becomes "ligh-der" and "bottle" becomes "boddle".
In another example, if we take the word "international", the American accent tends to drop the hard "t" sound altogether so it will sound more like "inernational". This also goes for words like "intersection" and "interstate"
Do Americans always drop certain syllables and words?
Not always - it very much depends on which part of America the accent is from. Someone in Washington will speak very differently from someone in South Carolina. So no, Americans don't always drop syllables and words when they speak.
American English tends to be a lot more linear and nasal than British English. Listen to your favourite American films - most Americans will speak with their nose!
Americans do drop their words sometimes, but this often gives a fluid effect to their speech patterns.
Why not check out some of the most popular English quotes of all time?
The Features of A British Accent
The Varied British Accent
The British accent varies strongly from region to region, but the one that is generally taught in schools internationally is the "refined" or "proper" Oxford English. Many people have a fondness for the British accent from their favourite English TV shows and say it's more pleasant and refind than an American accent.
The UK isn't far from its neighbours in Italy, France or Spain, but if learners from those countries are more familiar with the international accent or American accents from films, the British accent can be more difficult to understand.
British English: Diphthongs and Tripthongs
Diphthongs are syllables where two vowels are pronounced in the same sound. To give an example, "duty" is pronounced more like "dee-ooh-ty" if we draw it out slowly. This is the same for words like "employer" and "layer".
Diphthongs also exist in American English, but the English tend to pronounce diphthongs more precisely. After all, England is the birthplace of the English language!
Sometimes British people even add in diphthongs where they usually aren't! They may do this to words ending in a suffix, like "shortly", "definitely" or "pretty". Speakers of British English will often emphasise the last syllable, giving the impression of saying two syllables.
Plosives in British English
Another feature of British English accent that isn't present in American English is how plosives are said. So what are plosives?
Put simply, plosives are the exaggeration of accents on particular consonants. In British English pronunciation, speakers will generally place strong accents on the consonants in each word. You'll usually find these strong plosives on letters like "b, d, p, and t".
Plosive comes from the word "explosive" and as the name might suggest, you need to say these consonants explosively! Think of the consonants as small bursts coming from your mouth. If you emphasize the "b" plosive strongly enough, you may hear a "p" sound.
So in a strong British accent, the word "British" will sound like "Pritish"
Similarly, the word "Cambridge" will sound more like "Campridge"
If you want to adopt a clear British English accent, make sure you say your plosives!
So what's next? You could learn English with our Selection of Anglophone news resources, or for something a little different - check out the maligned, yet weird and wonderful Australian food culture.