Tag Archives: accents

Why does the UK have so many accents? (Recorded February 2017)

This episode was originally recorded in February 2017 and is being uploaded in August 2017. In this episode I’m going to answer several questions from listeners about accents, including how regional accents occur in the UK and why there are so many accents there. Video available.

[DOWNLOAD]

Video – I’m not sick, I’m English, and it was winter. ;)

uk accents

There is a very wide variety of accents in the UK (not to mention the accents you find in other English-speaking countries like Ireland, Canada, the USA, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and more. English is a hugely diverse language and in my experience foreign learners of English don’t usually know a lot about the different accents – particularly all the regional varieties in the UK, and they often just find it difficult to understand them, and as a result learners of English can’t enjoy the great variety of sounds in English and the sheer diversity of character and personality you get from the different varieties of English, and therefore it’s worth talking about on the podcast.

This is such a big subject that to do it justice would require me to write a whole book about it. Instead I just do episodes about accents fairly regularly in an effort to cover as much of the topic as possible. For example, I recently did some episodes about British accents that you hear in the Lord of the Rings films, which gave me a chance to talk about the different associations we have with different accents in the UK and how those associations were used to provide some colour and character to the movie versions of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings stories. I also did episodes about the accents you might hear in Glasgow and I spoke to Korean Billy about regional dialects and accents too.

Since uploading those episodes I’ve noticed a few comments from listeners wondering why there are so many accents in the UK, so I’ve prepared this episode which I hope will help you understand that a bit more.

The plan, in this episode (or episodes) is to talk about these things:

  • Why there are so many accents in the UK
  • How our accents develop as part of a natural psychological process
  • What this means for learners of English and teachers of English

Also, we’ll listen to someone speaking in a Liverpool accent and I’ll help you understand it

So, this episode is about the way people speak, but it’s also about history, psychology, how to learn English, what my friends sound like, and how to understand a football player from Liverpool.

How are all those things connected? Listen on and you’ll find out!

Why do we have so many accents in the UK? (Communication Accommodation Theory)

One of the things I said in those episodes about LOTR was that there is a really wide variety of accents in the UK, and that your accent reveals lots of things about you such as where in the country you’re from and what social background you come from.

Remember, when I say “Accent” this means simply the way that you pronounce the words you’re using.

If you remember, one of the things I mentioned in one of those episodes was a quote from George Bernard Shaw, which said “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him”, George Bernard Shaw.

This gives the impression that we all hate each other of course, and I don’t agree. The point which is made by this quote is that we all have prejudices about each other’s accent and this is an expression of the class system probably. That middle class people probably look down on people with strong regional accents and resent people who speak with very posh accents and so on…

Here’s a comment from Nick in response to those episodes.

Nick 2 hours ago – [These bits in brackets are Luke’s comments]
What a complicated life there in the UK… Everybody resents each other because of their accents… [we don’t resent each other really, but we do judge each other a bit – we also love each others accents too] Wow I never thought that accents in the UK had such an important role in people’s lives. [Yes, they’re very important indicators of our identity – but they’re also a source of great fun, joy, amusement and celebration] Luke, thanks for this episode. You opened up the UK in a new way for me. Even though I knew about different accents in the UK (and from your podcast too) I somehow didn’t realize the deep meaning of accents in English life.
But I don’t really understand how it happened that you have so many accents in quite a small area. I can understand that different levels of society may have different words in their vocabulary, but why they should have SUCH different accents especially when they live in one city or region… maybe it was people’s desire to make something with the language, or at least with pronunciation in order to be somehow unique from others. Like different groups of people or subcultures dress in different clothes or different nations have their own folk costumes.

This is a really good question and there are so many interesting aspects to the answer. I’m now going to try and deal with that question.

Why do we have so many accents in the UK?

It could be explained by “Communication Accommodation Theory” or CAT for short.

Collins dictionary: “Accommodation” 3. countable noun
Accommodation is a kind of agreement between different people which enables them to exist together without trouble. (not a written agreement, but a social or psychological tendency to come closer to each other and form communities based on shared behaviour)

Communication Accommodation Theory suggests that the way we communicate is an expression of our desire or natural tendency to become part of a social group.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communication_accommodation_theory (Wikipedia)

E.g. When I was living in Japan I picked up a lot of the body language because I wanted to fit in, basically. I didn’t even realise I was doing it.

That’s non-verbal communication, but we’re talking about verbal communication.

Also, it’s not just limited to individuals. Imagine whole communities of people, over many many generations being affected by this process.

scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/a-is-for-accommodation/ (Thornbury)

This could explain:

  • Why there are so many different accents associated with different regions in the UK
    For example, why people in Liverpool speak differently to people in Manchester, or why the ‘cockney’ dialect came about (more on this kind of thing in a bit)
  • Why we naturally change the way we speak depending on the people around us
  • Why speaking to a diverse range of people is very good for your accent
  • Why native English speakers sometimes change the way they speak when talking to foreigners – e.g. when travelling or meeting a foreign person.

The tendency is to unconsciously adapt.

I’m going to try and deal with all these things, but not quite in that order!

Why native speakers sometimes adapt their language when talking to foreigners
According to Scott Thornbury (a well-known teacher and author of teaching materials and a bit of a legend in the world of English teaching) there are two versions – ‘caretaker talk’ and ‘foreigner talk’.

“This is especially obvious in the way we talk to children and non-native speakers, [using] forms of talk called ‘caretaker talk’ and ‘foreigner talk’, respectively. Both varieties are characterized by considerable simplification, although there are significant differences. Caretaker talk is often pitched higher and is slower than talk used with adults, but, while simpler, is nearly always grammatically well-formed. Foreigner talk, on the other hand, tolerates greater use of non-grammatical, pidgin-like forms, as in ‘me wait you here’, or ‘you like drink much, no?’”
I’ve seen this happening to some English teachers. They adapt their speech to the students, speaking this weird form of English that’s easy for foreigners to understand but might not be helping them learn.

It’s really difficult to judge it correctly as a teacher. How much do you grade your language, and how do you do it? It’s important to speak correctly – meaning in the sort of full English that you normally would use and in the same way that most native speakers talk to each other, while making sure it’s comprehensible. If you’re too ‘natural’ your students won’t understand you. But if you simplify your English too much, you end up doing this ‘foreigner talk’ which is just not a good model of the language.

I guess this is part of being a good teacher; knowing how to strike the balance between being comprehensible and yet also realistic and natural.

I always try to keep these things in mind when I speak. It’s probably why my voice becomes more and more like standard RP, which I think is just generally accepted to be clearest version of the language, and that’s how I was brought up to speak by my parents. That’s not to say other versions of the language aren’t correct of course, and as I’ve said many times before I love the different accents.

Do I accommodate when I talk to native speakers with different accents?

Yes I do – a bit – I mean, only to accents that are a part of me. I have a few slightly different accents in me and my speech slides in slightly different directions depending on who I am with. They’re not radical changes because I’m still being myself, but my speech does change a little bit. When I’m back in Birmingham my speech becomes a bit more Brummie. When I’m in London it does the same. Only a little bit of course. This is totally normal.

It’s also why it’s important to speak to other people on this podcast because it’s in the interaction with others that language really becomes most alive and natural. When I’m talking to you on my own I speak in my neutral voice, but when I’m in conversation with others you might hear my voice changing slightly. You might not notice to be honest because it’s a pretty mild change. Perhaps it doesn’t happen that much because I am still aware that I’m being listened to by my audience.

For example, when I spoke to Rob Ager from Liverpool about movies last year, my accent didn’t change that much. But maybe if I’d spent the weekend in Liverpool, just hanging out and talking, my accent might have changed a little bit.

When I lived in Japan I spent a lot of time working with people from Australia and apparently I picked up some of accent – particularly the rising intonation pattern. So, the conclusion – I do accommodate a bit, but usually to an accent that I have personal history with, and only if I’m exposed to it for fairly long periods of time and when I’m feeling self-conscious it happens less.
Certainly when I’m back in Birmingham my accent changes a bit, because that’s where I spent a lot time when I was younger.

Cat’s question: What are Paul and Amber’s accents?
Amber & I are pretty similar. It’s just RP. Paul speaks RP too but with a bit more local influence. He’s from Kent so he speaks with some traces of a Kentish accent – e.g. glottal stops. “Native speaker” “Excited” Maybe some “th” sounds sound a bit like “d” or “v” sounds.

Some people seem to think that his voice is influenced by French. It’s isn’t.

That kind of influence would only happen if French was Paul’s first language, and he’d learned English as a second language in adulthood. That’s not the case – in fact to an extent he learned both languages while growing up. He’s certainly native level in English, and he probably is native level in French too. He certainly sounds it. So, because he’s got, basically, two native level languages, they exist independently in his head and therefore don’t influence each other much in terms of accent. Every now and then it influences his vocabulary but he instantly recognises it and self-corrects. You might have heard him do it on the podcast sometimes.

Paul speaks very clearly, which is evident in the way people always tell him that they can understand what he’s saying. His English accent is influenced more by where he grew up in the south-east of England and by the wide variety of people he’s spoken to in his life. He spent many years travelling with Apple, studying and living in different parts of the UK. RP again is probably the default setting for someone like Paul, when trying to speak clearly, but those glottal stops and some dropped consonant sounds reveal that his most formative time for English was in Canterbury, and he is also not the sort of person to listen to a lot of BBC Radio 4.
Paul is also a natural mimic. He’s able to hold different accents in his head at the same time and switch between them. He’s something of a chameleon in that way. Put him in with a bunch of Scottish people for a long time and he’d probably emerge with traces of that accent I expect. Anyway, when he’s with Amber and me his accent is pretty much like ours but with traces of his Kentish background, which is why he says “Native speaker” like that.

So, that’s a bit about ‘accommodation theory’ in relation to my friends and me.
What about Nick’s original question about the diversity of accents in the UK. I’m going to talk more specifically about that in a moment.

But first let’s check out a funny example of a professional footballer from Liverpool who moved to France to play for Olympique de Marseille football club.

Now this is an example of an English person accommodating to French people around him, and we see that this is certainly not happening to Paul Taylor

Joey Barton’s weird French accent

Who is Joey Barton? What was the situation?

Joey Barton speaking with this weird French voice

He was heavily criticised for this – a lot of people mocked him and called him stupid.
He’s definitely not stupid. Maybe he wasn’t aware of the different ways he could have changed his voice – e.g. speaking with RP probably just wasn’t something that would occur to him. This lad is a scouser through and through. He’s not going to start speaking RP – he’s going to accommodate to the French instead.

The reason he’s doing it, as explained by accommodation theory is to make it easier for the French journalists to understand him. His scouse accent is difficult for the French to understand. He was just trying to be intelligible and he ended up accommodating to their speech.

Also he did it to win social approval. I imagine being the only English guy there, in front of all those French journalists, with the pressure of playing for this big club and not speaking French, he wanted to win their approval. This probably happens in Football quite a lot because of the emphasis on teamwork. I expect during training and while bantering with other players and staff, Barton had to very quickly adapt his speech to be part of the team. I imagine speaking Scouse English more clearly wouldn’t help the French.

(Joey Barton talks about the French accent incident)

It’s not just speech – it’s also non-verbal communication. Barton does a couple of typically French things, including the kind of ‘sigh’ or blowing of air through the lips which is really common.

According to research we are naturally wired to copy the speech and behavioural patterns of the people we’re talking to. It’s a natural, neurological process that humans engage in when they want to communicate, be understood and be accepted by others.

Significance for Learning English
For learning English this suggests some of the most important ways to improve your English pronunciation and your English in general are to a) actually communicate with people in real conversations about real things b) have the desire to understand others and really be understood by others c) have the desire to share things (info) with the people you’re communicating with d) have the desire to be socially accepted by the people you’re talking to.

So, spend time talking naturally with English speakers because you want to! Or at least, practise communicating in English not just because you think it’s important for your career or for your English, but because you are genuinely interested in sharing ideas, finding out about people and the world, and broadening the scope of your identity. The more motivated you are by these things, the more you’re opening yourself up to the natural neurological conditions for language learning.

Got it? Talking to different people with good English and who come from diverse origins about things you are interested in, really helps your English and your accent in particular!
Being engaged in genuine communication because you care about sharing ideas is going to help your brain in a natural process of language learning.

Other work helps too – like studying the phonemic chart, analysing the physical ways we pronounce different sounds, how speech is connected and all that stuff, and doing plenty and plenty of mechanical, physical practice – it’s important too, but certainly this theory suggests that our brains are wired to adapt our speech patterns in the right conditions as part of a social process.

But also, it may be vital for you to learn how to accommodate yourself to the English of the people you’re talking to. This from Scott Thornbury:

So, what are the implications for language teaching? In the interests both of intelligibility and establishing ‘comity’, Joey Barton’s adaptive accent strategy may be the way to go. For learners of English, whose interlocutors may not themselves be native speakers, this may mean learning to adapt to other non-native speaker accents. As Jenkins (2007: 238) argues, ‘in international communication, the ability to accommodate to interlocutors with other first languages than one’s own… is a far more important skill than the ability to imitate the English of a native speaker.’

So, when you’re chatting to other non native speakers in English, how should you make yourself more intelligible in order to establish good relations? Do you suddenly start sounding like Luke Thompson, or do you accommodate to their way of speaking, following the rule of accommodation theory?

What do you think? Feel free to either agree with accommodation theory here, or disagree with it, but do give a good reason why.

But why are there so many accents in the UK?

It’s a really complex question which probably needs to be answered by someone with a PhD on the subject, but here’s my answer!

It’s probably a big mix of geography, culture, politics, history and human nature.
Tribalism.

Perhaps it’s because we’re a small nation with quite a high population.

Geography. We’re an island (group of islands actually) so that creates a clear land border – meaning that we’re a bit more ‘penned in’ than some other cultures.

The class system. RP was the standardised version, but ordinary folk spoke in their own way and weren’t expected to speak RP because they knew their place. They could never break away from that. We never had a revolution proclaiming everyone as equal, so working people didn’t take on the standard form of English.

Irregular relationship between the written word (spelling) and the spoken version mean that the spoken version is perhaps more open to interpretation than others. Our written language is not phonetic, therefore the pronunciation is not tied down. There’s no solid rule book on how to pronounce English – there’s the phonetic chart, but that is based on RP and that’s where the class system comes into it. RP is associated with a certain class of people and then identity politics come into play.

Perhaps the multicultural ‘mongrel’ nature of the Brits has something to do with it. We’re a mongrel nation. Maybe the diversity of accents is the result of this patchwork or melting pot of different people and languages. E.g. celtic, nordic, germanic, norman French, gallic French, latin, Irish celtic, Scots celtic, commonwealth nations like Jamaica, India & Pakistan – especially Jamaica which has had a massive influence the way young people in London speak, and now media, like American and Australian English that we hear on a daily basis.

Our islands have been visited, invaded, populated and influenced by migrating people and their voices for many many years. This goes deep into the past and continues to this day, even though the official version of history will suggest that we have one unbroken family line (The Royal Family that we all learn about in school). There’s a lot more diversity than this narrative would suggest. This could result in a wide variety of influences, creating diversity which is not obvious just by looking at people. It’s also interesting to me that the narrative of the ‘unbroken line of history’ which we get from the monarchy, is also aligned with a certain way of speaking – this old-fashioned RP which is the standard form. Underneath that standard form, or next to it, there is a lot more variety and diversity.

There was a long period before the emergence of the single unifying monarchy in which the country was essentially split up into different, independent areas, ruled by competing monarchs. Tribalism was seriously important. Think: Game of Thrones. Community, loyalty, rejection of others – these were vitally important principles. It was the breeding ground for different local versions of a language. It must be the same in many other countries.

This relates to aspects of the accommodation theory. Convergence is when people pull together in a community and naturally speak in the same way to express this shared identity. At the same time there is divergence – pulling away from other communities which could be rivals or whatever. If you’re part of one community you’ll speak like them and you won’t speak like the others. Either you’re in one or the other. This could account for why people in Liverpool and Manchester speak differently even though the two cities are pretty close. Just look at the football fans to see how much of a rivalry there is between the two cities.

I expect a number of other factors have come together to cause the UK to have this wide diversity. But perhaps we’re just a lot more aware of the diversity because the place is really connected – it’s a pretty small island and we’re all squeezed in together with a clear natural border of the sea, and the industrial revolution happened there bringing the train – mass transport which suddenly brought everyone much closer together, making us a lot more aware of our different versions of English. I imagine if you examined other countries you would find similar differences in Accent. The USA for example has definite differences, and it’s quite a young country in comparison. So, I expect many countries have similar diversity in accent and dialect, perhaps we’re just a lot more aware of it in the UK.

We also have the class system which has added another dividing line – another factor which pushes communities together (convergence) or pushes them apart (divergence). Perhaps working class communities held onto their accents as a way of expressing their sense of local identity as a contrast to the less region specific upper classes, who seemed to be less fixed geographically. E.g. The Royal Family has it’s own geography, which moves between international borders and not just across domestic community borders. I mean, Prince Phillip for example was born in Greece. The QUeen’s ancestors were German. Despite the fact that they are the figureheads for the UK, they are not really fixed to local areas within the country.

This also would apply to the nobility – the proper upper classes, who probably owned land that perhaps their families hadn’t lived on for centuries. I expect one area of England for example was ruled by one family for a period, then another family became the rulers – either by conquest, trade, marriage etc. The ruling class probably were quite mobile. The people who lived and worked on the land, were of that land for generations. So, working class people have stronger regional accents than upper class people. It’s absolutely nothing to do with so-called “lazy pronunciation”, it’s more to do with identity – strengthening local communities by having their own version of the language. Power, identity and economics.

No governing body to standardise English. Just powerful people through their influence have guided the narrative that RP is the standard form – this also happens to be the English that the educated, wealthy class use.

So, that’s my fairly long and rambling answer Nick.

We’re not finished with accents though. I’ve just talked about how C.A.T. might explain why we have so many accents in the UK, and also what the theory can tell us about things like my accent, the accents of my friends and also how you can work on your accent too. I still plan to spend some more time focusing on specific accents and playing around.

Now, I would like to ask all of you a few questions

  • How many different accents can you identify in your country?
  • Are accents in your country related to geography?
  • Is there a standard accent? Is that accent associated with a particular region?
  • What attitudes to people have about accents where you come from?
  • In English, which accent do you prefer? If you don’t know a region, can you think of an individual person whose accent you like? Feel free to say Amber Minogue of course.
  • If you’ve been shipwrecked and you get washed up on a remote island populated by a local tribe of native people who seem to use English as their main language and yet look like they might be hostile, or hungry, or both, what’s the best way to get into their good books? Speak like me, or speak like them? Or get back in the sea and swim?

422. Learning British Dialects with Korean Billy

Talking to Billy from Korea about his videos about regional British dialects and accents.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]
Today on the podcast I’m very glad to be talking to the one and only Korean Billy.

You might already know about Korean Billy because he has recently made a name for himself on YouTube by producing videos about British English dialects showing and explaining specific words, phrases and accents you might hear in different parts of the UK, and they’re proving to be very popular, especially with people in Britain. I think the appeal of his videos is that although Billy is from another country, he’s really managed to identify a lot of the specific dialect words and pronunciation of these forms of British English that even some Brits aren’t that familiar with. Also, he just seems like a really nice guy who is not only enthusiastic about understanding different local dialects of British English but also helping other people to understand them too.

Billy used to live as a student in England. In fact he studied at university in Preston in the north of England for a few months where he met people from many parts of the country and then he started making YouTube videos about British dialects last year.

In the last few months his videos have gone viral, particularly in Britain, and he’s been featured on websites like BuzzFeed as well as on various radio and television programmes in England including several BBC programmes. He’s most famous in the UK for his videos on Scouse, Geordie, Mancunian and “Roadman” dialects. The Scouse dialect is from Liverpool, the Geordie dialect is from Newcastle, the Mancunian dialect is from Manchester and “Roadman” is a kind of dialect associated with groups of young people in London. Since recording this conversation Billy has uploaded videos about Hull dialect words and Birmingham dialect words. He’s also got some videos which feature some good clear advice for other people learning English as a foreign language, based on his own learning experiences.

I’m interviewing him on the podcast because I think he’s a really clever guy who has learned English to a good standard and he knows a lot about British accents and dialects. I want to know more about how he has done that, and I just love regional accents so I think it could just be a lot of fun to talk to Billy about this whole subject.

Let’s now talk to Korean Billy.

* * *

If you want to hear Billy doing those British regional dialects and learn about them yourself, then check out Billy’s YouTube videos. Click here for Billy’s YouTube channel

What do you think?

As a Brit, I’m interested in Billy’s work, but I wonder what you think, because you’re approaching this subject from a different point of view, as foreigners who don’t have English as a first language (most of you) and who might not be so familiar with these specific versions of British English.

How do you feel about this? What I hope is that you feel inspired by Billy,  and you feel like he’s a good example of an English language learner, and that he shows that if you’re enthusiastic and outgoing about learning English and if you apply yourself to your learning that you can make heaps of progress. I also hope that although you might not want to speak with a Scouse accent or a Geordie accent, that you’re still curious about these different varieties of British English. I think that knowing the different versions of the language helps you to develop a fully rounded and solid English, and that involves not only listening to different accents but also trying to copy those accents. It’s all good for raising your awareness of features of pronunciation and improving the range of your English in general.

Korean Billy on YouTube

Click here for Billy’s YouTube channel

Korean Billy on the BBC

Jimmy Carr explains how to do some British accents, including Scouse “I want some chicken and a can of coke” (Billy mentioned this in our converstion)

Also mentioned

Misfits (TV show) – Features lots of different UK accents and some *explicit content*

Attack the Block (Film) – South London youth dialect

What have you been thinking while listening to this episode?

Whoever you are, wherever you are – let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

Thanks to Korean Billy for taking part in this episode.


POST-RAMBLE

Some more thoughts, from me to you, at the end of this episode…

I just want to mention a few other things that might make you think a little bit.

LEPster Get-Togethers

I recently got this message from Nick Wooster, one of the guys who has been organising Get Togethers with other LEPsters in Moscow. This is basically his report about the get togethers.

Thanks for your inter­est in our meetings, Luke! It’s reall­y i­mportant and plea­sant­ for us! Almost like a­ virtual participatio­n :) Actually, on ­ave­rage 10 people “ge­t ­together” in our meetings! And it­’s ­nice to know that ­th­e­re are already so­m­e regular L­EPsters who come almost ever­­y time! BTW, are the­r­e really 50/50 male­s a­nd females among ­your ­listeners?! Acc­ording­ to our modest­ stats ­we have 80 ma­les to 20­% females h­ere in Mosc­ow:) Prob­ably the fa­ct that y­ou are alrea­dy marri­ed somehow in­fluence­s, doesn’t it?­

Activities. At the ve­­­ry beginning newcom­e­r­s tell the rest of the group a­bo­ut­ themselves and­ ho­w they happened to start­ list­ening to ­you:)­ After­ that­ we shif­t to th­e main­ topic­ mention­ed in t­he a­genda – e­ach one sha­res his/her op­inion ­and the others ­ask s­everal questions­ or ­give comments if­ the­y have some. Usually ­t­he discussion is qu­it­e lively and not a­ me­ss. I mean, we do ­with­out loud interru­ption­ or arguing, wh­ile th­e talk is quit­e inte­ractive itself­, which­ is surprisin­gly good­ for people ­from dive­rse backgro­unds who h­ardly know­ each other­! We also­ share our o­wn life ­stor­ies conn­ected w­ith th­e topic­s. Nex­t time w­e are ­going­ to pla­y a lyin­g ga­me (to guess if s­mb.­’s story is true or f­alse) at ­the very be­­ginning – it should ­b­e fun and also a go­­od chance to work on­ ­our speaking skills­. Also, Luke, if you ­have some ideas, piec­es of advice, maybe j­ust interesting and e­ffective games or wha­tever we would be gra­teful to you for shar­ing best practices:) ­with us!

We also publish on­ F­­B and VK the lin­k­s­ to useful resource­­­s discussed at the ge­­­t-togethers.

Most of the participa­­nts have known about­ ­these meetings due ­to­ your announcement­ of­ the first one. T­hat’­s why we were th­inkin­g if we could a­sk you­ to announce t­hat our­ Get-Together­s are al­ready regula­r! Curren­tly we meet­ every Sun­day at 6 p­m. The best­ way to b­e informed o­f agenda­, place and t­ime is ­to join our gr­oups o­n FB  m.facebook.com/groups/734996946664425?ref=bookmarks an­d VK ­http://www.vk.com/clubnu1

Previously a­s far as I remember w­e and you posted link­s for a particular ev­ent, if LEPsters join­ the group, they will­ be always aware of a­ll the events. Everyb­ody is welcome!

All in all, current M­oscow LE­­Psters are ­really gl­ad that we ­have s­uch a club now­ and can sh­are their­ thoughts on topics y­ou have raised­ in yo­ur episodes and gener­ally just s­peak Engl­ish with lik­e-minded­ people! Than­k you, ­­Luke, for suc­h an o­pp­ortunity;)

Nick.

P.S. Regards from my ­frien­d Dmitry who al­so contacted you!

Hello Nick, hello Dmitry and hello to all the other listeners who have got together recently in a conversation club. It’s odd, normally I imagine my listeners as individuals on their own, but I suppose there are some people out there who listen as a shared experience with other people, not necessarily at the same time, but there are other people you know who also listen – so I just want to say a special hello to listeners who listen with other people – like, if you listen with a brother or sister “Hello”, if you listen with your husband, wife, boyfriend of girlfriend “hello”, if you listen with your kids or parents, “hello” and if you listen with your teacher or some classmates or something, then “hello” to you too. If you listen with a pet animal or even a wild animal “hello”, and if you listen with friends or indeed any other living beings, then “hello” to you – the communal LEPsters out there.

My thoughts on LEP Get Togethers

I want to encourage this sort of thing in general. Meeting publicly, or meeting online. Let’s be clear about it – what you’re doing is creating your own peer group for improving your English, and that’s a really important part of your English learning.

The more I speak to people who have learned English to a proficient level, the more I notice that one of the habits or features of their learning was the fact that they spent regular time with a group of friends who talked in English. For example, there’s Kristina from Russia – a good example, but also Korean Billy and plenty of other people. Another thing worth noticing about this is that you don’t necessarily have to be hanging around with native speakers. Just spending meaningful and enjoyable time in the company of others and doing it in English, building friendly relationships and all that – it’s all very good for your English, even if you’re not mixing with native speakers. If you’re getting exposure to English in your life, having a peer group to interact with is going to allow you to develop your communication skills as a natural social process. So I fully agree with the idea of these get togethers and I think it’s great!

Also, the more my listeners get together in local communities like this, the easier it might be for me to come and visit at some point and put on a show or have a live podcast recording or something. So, carry on everyone, you’re doing it right!

Several Get Togethers have also happened between LEPsters in Tokyo and in London if I remember correctly. So it’s not just the Moscow LEPsters. And you could do it too in your town. Just set up an FB page and let me know, I’ll give you some publicity if I can.

What to talk about or do?
Playing a game or having a topic – good ideas, definitely. I recommend using all your creativity, playing the lying game for fun or any other parlour games like the name game for example. Also, consider playing different board games in English too. As long as you’re having a relaxing and pleasant time and you’re exchanging information in English, it’s good.

One idea is simply to agree on your topic beforehand and simply write down a load of discussion questions relating to that topic. Then you can fall back on those questions if you need to. You can just let the conversation go wherever it feels like going, but go back to the questions if you want.

Be interested in what the others are saying. Really interesting people are interested in others. It’s important to create an atmosphere in which people listen to each other – this is really important because it makes people feel valued, and when you really listen to what people are trying to say and you show your interest in those people, it’s like giving water to a plant – it just helps it grow. Imagine you’re in a social situation. If you feel like people are interested and listening, you’ll feel far more comfortable and ready to talk. So, listen to each other and remember that everyone’s got a story to tell, you just need to be ready to notice it. So, your get-togethers are not just speaking sessions, they’re listening sessions too.

It might be worth assigning a leader to each session who is generally in charge of things, but also each participant should take the initiative to ask questions and start conversations and things, but of course it shouldn’t feel like a role or a job, just let it happen naturally.
Just have fun and keep me informed about how it’s all going!

I encourage other people to set up their own conversation groups. I’m calling them “Get-Togethers” – what do you think of that? Do you think the name works? You could call them Meetups, or Gatherings or Meetings or whatever you like really.

I just want to remind you that this sort of thing used to happen every week online on Skype in the ChatCast which was setup by Guillaume from Switzerland. It was basically a Skype group that recorded their group conversations and also published it as a podcast. I appeared on it a few times. They picked a different topic each week and just discussed it in a friendly and open way. The ChatCast is having a break at the moment but you can hear some of the episodes in the ChatCast archive at chatcast.ch/

There was also an LEP Whatsapp group and an LEP Skype group that used to share contact details in my website forum. I have closed the forum now because I streamlined my website recently, but I don’t know if the WhatsApp group and Skype groups are still running. So, if you are still chatting to other LEPsters as part of a conversation group on Whatsapp or Skype, please let me know because I can find a way for you to continue to share your contact details with each other on my website. I still have an archive of the Forum posts about the skype and whatsapp groups by the way.

There are lots of LEP related projects going on and I think it’s cool.

The comment section, with lots of friendly chatting about episodes, the topics of episodes and other tangents.

The LEP Get Togethers.

The Transcript Collaboration – run by The Orion Team – an awesome band of podcast listeners who work together to transcribe episodes of this podcast and proofread each others’ work.

Podcasts done by listeners to this podcast (although I can’t claim credit for all of them of course) but still, it’s great that they’re doing it. Notable ones of the moment are Zdenek’s English Podcast and Daniel Goodson’s My Fluent Podcast. There was also Chriss’ English Podcast and Guillaume’s Engilsh Podcast as well as the Chatcast and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone else.

Podcasting is brilliant anyway and of course I recommend that you try it, experiment with it and have fun. And of course Korean Billy could be an inspiration to you. You could consider sharing your learning experiences on your own YouTube channel. You might catch people’s attention, and who knows what cool things could happen to you. At the very least you’ll practise your English a lot.

All right, thanks for listening. This podcasting thing is pretty amazing isn’t it? Yes it is. OK good, I’m glad you agree. I’ll speak to you soon. Bye!

405. British Accents in The Lord of the Rings (Part 2)

In this episode we continue to analyse the various British accents that you can hear in the film version of The Lord of the Rings. Let’s consider the accents of some of the main characters, such as Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Treebeard, Elrond, Boromir, Gandalf, Saruman, Legolas, Gimli and the orcs.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Frodo and Sam at the river (Frodo: English RP, Sam: English West Country)

Merry, Pippin & Treebeard (Merry: mild Manchester – Stockport, Pippin: Glasgow Scottish, Treebeard: old fashioned Scottish? RP with traces of Tolkien’s made-up elvish accent?)

Boromir at the Council of Elrond (Elrond: Heightened RP, Boromir: RP with traces of Yorkshire)

Sean Bean interview with Larry King (Sean Bean: Sheffield in Yorkshire, England / Larry King: Brooklyn NYC)

Gandalf and Saruman (Heightened RP / trained thespian actors at their best!)

Gimli & Legolas (Legolas: Heightened RP, Gimli: Welsh, which sounds Scottish at times)

Orcs (Cockney! Oi Oi!)


one-does-not-simply

404. British Accents in The Lord of the Rings (Part 1)

Talking about the different accents you can hear in the Lord of the Rings movies.

[DOWNLOAD]

Why this subject, Luke?

First of all, Lord of the Rings is brilliant and it’s nice to talk about it.

Secondly, In the last episode I talked about accents a bit – specifically posh accents, and it made me think about the subject a lot. I started thinking about the different British accents you can hear in Lord of the Rings, and I thought that the movie is so popular and well-known that it could be a good way to get into the subject of accents.

IN this episode, let’s identify the different accents that you can hear in the films and consider the reasons why these accents were chosen for these characters. Along the way the plan is to listen to a few different British accents and get to know them a bit. There will probably be some general chat about LOTR too, but that’s not the main subject of the episode. I’d like to do other episodes later about the story of LOTR.

Actually, this is just one episode about accents that I’ve been inspired to do today. If I have time I might record another one in which I go into some more specific details about “posh” accents and “posh” people.

And I’d like to do similar ones about other accents you can find in the UK.

But this one will cover quite a lot of different accents because there is quite a bit of variety in the LOTR film universe.

Another summary of accents in the UK

It’s based on region – different accents for different regions.

It’s also related to class – generally speaking. People from a working class background tend to speak with the regional accent from the area where they live or grew up. Those regional accents get less strong as you move up the social classes, with middle and upper-middle class people speaking a less region specific-accent known as RP (received pronunciation) or BBC English (like me). There are still some regional variations of RP but generally if people speak like me they’re speaking standard British RP. Then as you continue to the upper-class people, who you might describe as “posh” you start hearing a kind of heightened-RP or “posh” accent. The Queen is the poshest person in the country.

This isn’t always the case of course. You might find someone who comes from a very posh aristocratic family who doesn’t speak heightened-RP. Similarly, you might find someone who is very wealthy and powerful who speaks with a regional accent. There are exceptions, and also there’s an argument to say that the class system doesn’t apply any more, etc. But, honestly I think that it’s still true. Working class background? – You’ll probably speak with a regional accent (unless you lost it somewhere along the way) and if you’re middle class you’re more likely to speak RP like me, and if you’re upper class you’re more likely to speak heightened-RP or “posh” English.

It also relates to time. Heightened-RP used to be a lot more normal and it sounds pretty old fashioned by today’s standards. There was a time when everyone on the BBC spoke with heightened-RP “This is the voice of the BBC”. Nowadays most of the voices are standard-RP and plenty of TV presenters have regional accents, especially on shows that have a broad popular appeal. E.g. An entertainment show which is on the TV at 7pm in the UK and attracts a huge audience features middle-class presenters who speak with slight regional accents because these days people like that. It means you’re a normal person who comes from a normal local place. The news is still read by people with RP, because it’s neutral and sounds educated and therefore well-informed.

We do have certain associations with different accents, and these associations are quite complex. E.g. people say they find certain accents more or less trustworthy, warm, sexy, irritating, urban, rural, high-class, low-class etc.

In the UK people judge each other by their accents all the time, without realising it. It’s a big indicator of social class, education or even wealth for example. We shouldn’t judge each other by our accents, but we do.

I’m not talking here about how you can learn to speak with a British accent. THat’s another topic for another time. One thing I will say is that I think the most important thing is that you speak clearly and the other people around you can understand exactly what you want to say. Let clarity guide you, not how you perceive the social status of different accents. If you’re looking for an accent that makes you sound posh, watch out because other people might not have positive associations with “posh” for example.

“It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.”
George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion (1916) preface

This means that there isn’t one single accent which is completely neutral and free of prejudice from others. This proves that the class system still exists. If I open my mouth in some places, people will immediately assume that I’m well-off and will probably hate me. Just a few people, I hope. E.g. if I went to do a comedy show in Liverpool on a Saturday night in front of a large crowd of slightly drunk Scousers, I’m sure some of them would take an instant dislike to me because I have a middle-class London accent.
So, there is no accent which is universally neutral. The main thing is that you’re clear and that you’re not ashamed of your roots. OK!

What about Lord Of The Rings?

First of all, LOTR is set in a fantasy world. The writer JRR Tolkein created this world originally as an exercise in linguistics. He was a linguist and he created his own languages and then needed a world for them to exist in. He was also interested in the idea of creating a mythology for the UK, because all our old myths and legends had been lost due to all the times we’d been invaded over the years. Our old Celtic mythologies have been replaced by Saxon or Norse ones from Denmark for example, or replaced with Judo-Christian narratives from the Old Testament, or Greek myths and so on. So, he created a made-up world, wrote his own myths and legends and created different languages for the made-up races of people, elves, orcs, dwarves, hobbits, ents and others to speak.

The characters either spoke different languages, or spoke English with different accents. The accents in the book were never aligned with real accents in the real world. We had to just imagine the accents in our heads – but the characters in the book are so well described, and the context is so rich that it’s not difficult to imagine these voices full of richness, roughness, smoothness, humour, spirit, courage, malice etc. We just imagined the accents in our heads, or just had a gut feeling about how the characters would speak.

Gandalf, for example, you imagined could be so warm and entertaining, like a fantastic old teacher in some dusty old school, but then he could be incredibly sharp, complex and frightening too. You imagined the Hobbits to have local accents of the countryside, reflecting their limited worldview, their proximity to nature. It makes you think of local accents from countryside areas of the UK. But the accents were never really directly described in the books.

So, turning the books into films was always going to be a challenge, because the filmmakers had to turn those made-up accents into real-world accents.

Which accents should each character have? This question was probably just as important as choosing what they should look like, or what they should wear. Perhaps it was more difficult because their appearances are clearly explained in the books. Choosing the accents though, was a matter of matching the right accent to the personality traits of the characters.

This is quite interesting because it tells us a little bit about how we immediately judge people based on their accents. E.g. some accents make you think of royalty, of ruralism, of rugged countryside etc. The accents, to an extent, are part of the landscape. The accents are quite closely connected to certain geographical locations in the real world.

So, the rolling hills of Hobbiton, the sharp peaks and deep chasms of the Misty Mountains and the large halls and palaces of Gondor – all of these have accents that seem appropriate to them.

What are the accents in LOTR?

All the accents are British. There are no American accents in the film, even though some of the actors are American, notably Viggo Mortenson (Aragorn), Sean Austin (Sam Gamgee) and Liv Tyler (Arwen). Also there are several Australian actors – Hugo Weaving (Elrond) and Cate Blanchett (Galadriel).

Why are the accents all British? I thought British accents in movies were just for the bad guys?
‘Otherness’
‘Old world’
Recordings of Tolkien’s readings of his own work – Tolkien’s own voice

Characters / Races

Frodo – speaks in standard RP

Hobbits – Generally the Hobbits are associated with a kind of rural, local charm. They’re warm characters with a strong sense of local identity. They work on the land. Imagine any part of England about 100 years ago. Farmers, local shopkeepers and things like that. All the hobbits have accents to give this kind of colour to their characters. Frodo speaks with RP because he’s from a slightly higher class than the others. Interestingly, the Hobbits don’t let their class differences come between them, which is another attractive thing about them.

Sam – comes from the South West – a stereotype of the country ‘bumpkin’. it’s a soft and homely accent. Working class because Sam is definitely a working class country boy to Frodo’s upper-class master.

Pippin – Scottish. Again there’s no real reason for this beyond giving him slightly old-world foreign charm. But it’s a fairly middle-class Scottish accent. Wikipedia: The filmmakers originally planned for Boyd to adopt an English accent for the role, in keeping with the other hobbits; however, Jackson found that Boyd’s comic timing was not as keen when he was not using his native accent. Therefore, it was decided to allow Boyd to play the role with a Scottish accent; the decision was justified by the observation that the Took-land in which the Took clan lived was a very hilly region of the Shire and was therefore vaguely similar to Scotland, and that the Tooks invented the game of golf, just like the Scots.

Merry – the actor comes from Stockport near Manchester and keeps his normal accent. Again, a bit of local ‘colour’. It’s not really strong.

Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Galadriel, Elrond, Saruman – RP / Heightened RP – all slightly old fashioned. These are the high-class people in the story, particularly the elves who all speak high RP (upper RP). An old, posh type of language which makes them all sound like thespians or ex-public schoolboys. This reflects their high status in the story and the richness and depth of their culture.

Boromir – Sean Bean (the actor) has a Yorkshire accent. He could easily have spoken RP just like the other stewards of Gondor but Sean Bean’s natural Yorkshire accent gives his character a bit of authenticity and northern ruggedness. It’s an accent with character and some sense of landscape, like the film. Also, Boromir doesn’t have the same lineage as Aragorn. In the film his family are the stewards of Gondor – they’re just there while the proper royal family is not around. He’s high-class, but not as high-class as Aragorn.

Gimli – Welsh. It’s supposed to be Welsh I think. I guess this reflects the harshness but warmth of the dwarves. Certainly they are parochial and characterful. In The Hobbit the dwarves all have local accents, except Thorin who speaks RP. Basically, if you want characterful accents with an old world flavour, go with British dialects. If you want that old world flavour with a touch of class – it’s old school RP.

Orcs – cockney. We associate this with thugs, gangsters and criminals (not every time of course!)

Other characters: Gollum, Bilbo, Eomer, Theoden, Eowyn, Treebeard, Sauron.

In part 2 let’s listen to some spoken samples in these different accents

lotr

342. Paul’s “La Bise” Video Success / Audition Story (with Amber & Paul)

In this episode I’m joined by podcast pals Amber & Paul and we talk about Paul’s hit youtube video about French kissing habits, his newfound success as a stand-up (he’s the hottest kid in town), some online abuse he’s had and then an anecdote about an audition that we attended recently, which involved a surprising misunderstanding about accents. There’s also a brief language focus on using relative clauses with ‘which’ to extend your sentences when speaking. Enjoy!

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]
Image: c/o Robert Hoehn French Fried TV

Transcript for the intro and outro to this episode

Intro

Hello, welcome back to the podcast. This is episode 342. First of all I’d like to say thanks if you’ve recently left comments on my website, written positive reviews on iTunes or especially if you’ve sent a donation to the podcast. I appreciate all of those things very very much indeed and I hope that you feel like you’ve invested in this podcast, even in a small way. Every little helps. So thank you very much.

In this episode I’m joined again by podcast pals Amber and Paul

If you are a brand new listener and you don’t know them then here are the basics: Essentially, they’re both from the south-east of England, I know them from the stand-up comedy scene here in Paris and they both have super-powers, yes that’s right – super-powers.

Amber is a voice-over artist, actress and tour guide. She has a little 2-year-old son called Hugo (who has featured on the podcast before, making dinosaur noises in episode 297), and Amber’s super power is that she has loveliest voice in the world. Her voice is so lovely it could melt the heart of even the toughest person – like anyone at all. Even Vladimir Putin or Batman would be reduced to a little puppy when listening to Amber’s voice, right listeners? If Amber’s voice was on Darth Vader’s iPod and he listened to her talking, he would immediately give up his devotion to the dark side and turn into an ewok or something. That’s Amber.

Paul used to work for Apple – the company, not the fruit. It would be weird if he worked for an Apple. Anyway, last year he took the brave decision to quit his job in order to focus on becoming a full-time stand-up comedian, performing both in English and in French. Paul has a weekly one-man show called #franglais which he performs every week and he also performs a two-man comedy show with me every Thursday, and that one’s called “Sorry, we’re English”. He has his own podcast, called “Becoming a Comedian”, which you can find at paultaylorcomedy.com. Paul’s super-power is his infectious laugh, which causes podcast listeners to randomly split their sides in different countries around the world, which is nice. I imagine if he had to do battle with Darth Vader, he’d just laugh in his face and Vader would turn into Jar-Jar Binks or something.

The conversation you’re going to hear in this episode was recorded the other day when we were sitting upstairs on my little terrace enjoying some sunshine. We recorded about 3 episodes-worth of stuff that day. Two in the sunshine and one indoors because after a few hours it went cloudy and then started raining, which is typical for April in this part of the world. You already heard the first part of that conversation in episode 341.

Click here to check out a list of other episodes featuring Amber & Paul

But in this conversation Amber and I talk to Paul about recent success in his stand-up career, there’s a surprise phone call from Robert Hoehn, we talk about some online abuse Paul’s received, and then Paul and I tell Amber about an audition we had for a TV show recently, which involved a bit of a misunderstanding about our British accents.

One thing I just want to let you know right now is that I’m aware that this conversation is quite quick and you might not get absolutely every single word that we say, but that’s fine because as we know, listening to native speakers at natural speed is a valuable thing for you to do even if it’s difficult to understand every little thing. Just try to fill in the blanks, tolerate the stuff you don’t understand, read between the lines and keep going. Listening several times will help, but the main thing is to relax and just enjoy spending 45 minutes in the sunshine with us.

Where were we?

Where were we in the conversation at the end of the last episode?

There was a bit of a cliffhanger of sorts. Paul was about to tell us what happened in January, and it’s something about his progress as a comedian. Let’s get an update on how it’s all going.

A bit of language analysis – Paul’s long sentence – using ‘which’

In just a moment I’m going to start playing our conversation to you and it’ll carry on from where it ended last time.

The first you’re going to hear is me saying to Paul, “Give us an update on what happened in January” and then you’ll hear Paul speaking pretty quickly, and producing perhaps the longest sentence in the history of humanity. Actually, long sentences with lots of additional clauses are pretty common in spoken English, especially in spontaneous talking. In writing I think it’s best to keep your sentences short and clear but in speaking we often find ways to extend our sentences to include new thoughts and to keep the rhythm going, particularly with words like ‘and’ or ‘but’ (simple ways) but also with relative pronouns, particularly ‘which’, which we add to nouns and even whole clauses in order to extend sentences (like I just did there – did you notice?) Check out the way Paul uses ‘which’ to extend his sentences and add ideas, adding fluency to his speech.

Here’s the first sentence you’ll hear from Paul in this episode:
“Yeah, I think the last time we spoke, I don’t know if we talked about it but I was gearing up for the start of my own show, which was like an hour, my first hour-long solo show, which was starting on January 9th and I was excited (and) nervous because I’d never been on-stage for an hour (and) it was going to be cool, whatever, and then during the month of December, Robert Hoehn, who has been on the podcast previously, he runs an English comedy night and he’s, I guess, seen me do comedy for the last three years and he suggested to me that I make a video out of one of my sketches which I’d been doing on stage, which was around the French, their kissing and saying hello and it’s called La Bise, in France.”

Wow. There are a few examples of ‘which’ in there and also a ‘who’, after he mentions Robert Hoehn, who has been on the podcast previously. Also, there’s the phrase “gearing up for” which means “getting ready for”. OK. Now I’ll let you listen to that sentence in full, spoken by Paul.

One question: How many times does he say “which” and what’s the most common word that comes after it?

*Paul’s long sentence*

Answers:
He says ‘which’ four times and it’s most commonly followed by ‘was’ (3 times) and once it’s followed by ‘had been doing’.

This is often how we add information to stories. I mentioned this language point in the photo competition episode too. That’s episode 327. In Paul’s sentence, “which was” comes after a noun every time, but sometimes it comes after a clause. Question: What is the noun or clause that is followed by ‘which’ in these examples?

“He suggested that I make a video of one of my sketches which I’d been doing on stage which was around the French way of saying hello”.

Answer: Both times it’s ‘one of my sketches’

and “So, we sat on the terrace and just talked for about 2 hours, which was nice”.

Answer: it’s the whole clause ‘we sat on the terrace and just talked for about 2 hours’.

So, there was a little bit of language analysis. But that’s enough of that. I will now let you listen to the rest of the conversation properly, and enjoy another chat with podcast pals Amber & Paul, and by the way, just to let you know in advance – there is a little bit of swearing in this conversation.

*conversation starts*

Watch Paul’s Video about “La Bise”

A France24 TV news report about Paul

Outro – Transcript

We will be back, speaking more ‘crapola’ soon, because we’ll be playing the interactive lying game and that should be the next episode of this podcast.

What’s crapola? It’s just another way of saying ‘crap’ or ‘nonsense’. Crap is poo by the way. Crap is a swear word but it’s not as bad as ‘shit’. Crapola is not such a common word – it’s a variation on the word ‘crap’ and it means ‘nonsense’ or ‘stupid talking’.

Accents

Now, at the end there you heard us talking about accents. That was a slightly heated conversation and since this is my podcast I’d like to try and clarify what I was trying to say.

So, first of all we went for the audition and it was nice, but one of the producers said, “Can you speak with less of a British accent?” and we asked, “You mean you want us to use an American accent?” and she said “Not American, just less British. You know, like the way they speak in New York, because they don’t have an American accent in New York” and we were a bit stunned that doesn’t mean anything. So, first of all I think it’s not possible to have no accent. Everyone has an accent, but you might feel like your accent is the normal, standard position for the language and that every other version is an accent. Even accents which are considered to be the neutral forms are still an accent. So it doesn’t make sense to say that you don’t have an accent or that the people of a particular place don’t have an accent. If they pronounce words, using certain sounds, that’s an accent. Some accents are considered the standard forms, and in the UK and in the USA there are, broadly speaking, two standard accents. There’s Received Pronunciation in the UK, which is generally how I speak (although I have inflections from the midlands and the South East, reflecting the places where I grew up) and in the USA there’s an accent called Standard American, which is a kind of regionless accent. So maybe what the girl meant to say was, can you speak with a standard American accent, or a more trans-Atlantic accent? But then she realised that it could be taken as a bit rude, because it’s like she suggested that there was something wrong with our British accents or something. She didn’t mean any offence of course.

Another thing I often read online is the sentence, “There’s no such thing as a British accent”, which is a bit misleading. Generally people write that in response to comments on Youtube or Reddit or something when an American person has said something like “OMG I love the British accent”, or equally “OH my god the British accent sucks” or something. Then someone gets pissed off and writes a response, like “there’s no such thing as a British accent!” But that’s a bit stupid too. If an accent comes from a part of Britain, it’s a British accent. Obviously British accents exist, but the point is there is not just one British accent – there are many accents from different regions and it’s a bit short-sighted to just imagine there is only one “British accent” when in fact it’s so much more diverse than that, and I suppose that comment “There’s no such thing as a British accent” is the British person’s way of expressing annoyance or frustration over the lack of awareness of the diversity of British accents.

In the UK today we are very sensitive to accents, as Amber mentioned in the conversation. There are many many variations on the way people speak, and those variations indicate things like regional origin and social status. We shouldn’t judge people by their accents, but we do. We also are very affectionate about accents and generally very positive about regional accent variations. We love the diversity of accents in our country and generally it is considered inappropriate and snobbish to laugh at an accent or to suggest that there’s something wrong with speaking in a different way. Being snobbish about regional accents is now quite unfashionable in the UK. Regional accents are generally celebrated these days – and when you watch TV, including the BBC news, you’ll hear lots of different accents being spoken by presenters from around the country, because TV viewers appreciate the regional flavours of the different accents.

So, I suppose part of our surprise at the girl at the audition was just about her lack of awareness of accent variation, but also the slightly clumsy way she talked about the whole subject, suggesting that people in New York had no accent, or that our British way of speaking was just a regional variation of an accent that has its neutral base in Manhattan. But, I understand that identifying regional accents can be very hard when you’re not native to that language, so we didn’t take offence at the girl and it was fine, but we did find it amusing and interesting from a linguistic point of view. So, that’s that.

I must do more episodes about different regional accents on this podcast. There is just so much content to cover and it’s really important that you get a sense of the different accent variations. I have dealt with accents before a bit, but there’s so much more to do on that subject. We’ve only really scratched the surface.

Listen to Adam & Joe talking about British and American actors doing different accents, particularly Ray Winstone (UK – London) pretending to be an American in the film Fool’s Gold. 😂

And this one about Leonardo DiCaprio’s Irish accent and how Hollywood helps actors perform in different accents.

Oh, and remember Tracy Goodwin the American voice coach from Episode 20 of Luke’s English Podcast? Here are Adam & Joe talking about that…

Using Apps to listen to this podcast

This is turning into another longish episode. It happens so easily, but you heard Paul earlier talking about the ‘pause’ button. I wonder if you use that, because as I’ve said before – you don’t have to listen to these episodes in one go, you can pause and listen to the rest later. If you’re using podcasting software like an app on your phone, it will remember where you were when you paused, even if you close the app or switch off your phone or computer.

Here are some recommended apps: There’s the standard Apple Podcasts app, which is fine. I use PocketCasts which is available on iPhone and android. You can also get it on your computer. There’s Acast which is good. Also, try the Audioboom app. All of them let you listen via an internet connection (wifi or data) and the also let you download episodes onto your phone so you can listen when you’re not online. All those apps will save your position in an episode so you can listen, pause, listen again, pause, come back later and listen to more etc.

You can still just download the files from the website and put them on your mp3 player – just check if there’s a folder in your player for podcasts because if you use that folder the mp3 player will probably save your position, just like the smartphone apps do.

Thanks for listening – speak to you soon, bye!

 

Video: Playing Around with Accents in English

A Video of me doing 20 different regional accents, voices and characters in English.

I recently discovered a video on my hard-drive. I’d forgotten that I had it. I recorded it over 2 years ago, but then I never uploaded it onto YouTube or showed it to anyone, until now. I think you might find it interesting to hear different accents in English and I think my accents are not bad in this video (although they’re not perfect of course – I think my American accent still sounds a bit English, but I’m trying not to make it too exaggerated), so now you can see it!

On the day I recorded it I had been sick off-work with a bad cold and a sore throat. I’d been indoors all day, on my own, and so I was bored and losing my mind a bit, but my voice sounded interesting with the sore throat so I decided to experiment with different voices, accents and characters. I hope you like it, and find it interesting. For more stuff like this visit www.teacherluke.co.uk

If you would like to transcribe this video, go ahead! Click here for a link to a google document.

159. A Cup of Tea with Paul Taylor (Part 2)

Hello! In this Christmas episode I am joined by Paul Taylor who is that rare thing; an English guy who can speak other languages.

Paul is also a stand-up comedian who specialises in observing funny things about different cultures. He is also really good at doing different accents.


Subscribe   iTunes  AudioBoo   RSS   Download Episode  Small Donate Button

In the episode we talk about Christmas traditions, his experiences of living in other countries and plenty of other things, including some examples of different accents in English. Enjoy the show!

Here is a video of Paul performing stand-up comedy around the world:
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=7q2Xn6jEsdQ&w=500&h=281%5D
And here’s one from a performance in Spanish, with English subtitles:
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1H5bpbSm30&w=500&h=281%5D

Here is a link to the Wkikipedia page for Fawlty Towers, which is the sit-com set in Torquay on the south coast of England. And, here’s a clip from the show. It’s old, but it’s a classic ;)
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-oH-TELcLE&w=500&h=375%5D

Merry Christmas everyone!

Luke

56. British Accents and Dialects


Right-click here to download this episode. 
First in a series of episodes about accents. Learn differences between accents from the UK. This is information that all learners of English need to know!

Click here to listen to my previous episode about British and American Pronunciation.

Here are the notes which I used to record this podcast episode. It’s not a transcript, but I do read from these notes during the episode.

Accents and Dialects:

I’m going to do a series of podcasts about accents. I’ve already done one about British and American accents, but I think accents are fascinating and a lot of fun so I’m going to do more. They are also very important for you, because:
-You need to be aware of different styles of English
-You shouldn’t listen to just ONE style of English because there’s a wide range of ways to say the same thing
-You need to be aware of the different sounds in English and what they mean
-You need to choose the accent you want, and then copy it
-You need to be able to understand different accents when you hear them

One of the most interesting things for me about accents is what and accent can tell you about a person. When I hear someone speak, their accent immediately gives me lots of associations. Just the sound of someone’s voice might tell me; their social class, which part of the country they are from, if they’re from the town or countryside, what their background might be, what their attitudes might be.

Obviously we shouldn’t judge people by their accents, and these are just pre-conceptions but the point is, I get all these associations but learners of English don’t. They can’t tell if someone is from the north or south or what social class they might come from. Native speakers usually can.

I’m interested in bridging that gap between what a native speaker knows/understands about accents and what a learner knows/understands.

Firstly, what is an accent and what is a dialect. A dialect is the usage or vocabulary that is characteristic of a specific group of people. An accent is the way in which a language is pronounced. So, dialect is differences in vocabulary and accent is differences in pronunciation.

Secondly, how many accents can you find in the UK? There are lots! At least 10.

How many accents are there in the world? Again, there are lots. Between different English speaking countries, and also within those countries. There are lots of ways of saying the same sentence in English!

Is it true that there is such thing as a British accent and an American accent? It’s not true that there is just one American or British accent. There are so many in America and so many in Britain but you can group accents as ‘British’ because they share many features and come from Britain. You can do the same for America too. But there is not just 1 British accent or 1 American accent.

There are general differences between British and American accents, and I’ve been into this before in previous podcasts. Click here to listen to my previous episode about British and American Pronunciation. . The differences include the /t/ sound, the /r/ sound, the /ɑ/ sound and the fact that American English often sounds more nasal.

If we focus on the UK we can see lots of different accents that are linked closely with different regions and cultures in the UK.

The standard accent which is used by the BBC World Service, Oxford & Cambridge dictionaries and the commonly used phonemic chart is called RP (received pronunciation) or BBC English. This is a standard form without a specific region. It’s traditionally associated with educated people who speak ‘correctly’. These days we’re more politically correct so any accent is ‘correct’ but RP is considered to be clear and non-region specific. I would say that it is more common in the south. I would also say that I speak with an RP accent with a few traces of accents I have picked up, particularly the Birmingham accent, because I lived there for a few years.

Then there are regional accents. I can’t go into great detail, but I will run through a few. There will be more podcasts in which I play you real samples of these accents. Here’s a list of different accents from the UK: Cornwall, Bristol (South West), London, East Anglia, Midlands (Birmingham), Wales, Liverpool, Manchester, Yorkshire, Newcastle, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland.

In the next few episodes I will play you extracts of different accents and highlight their features. Hopefully you’ll get familiar with a range of accents.

An interesting video in which an actor goes around the map of England, doing the different accents:
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8k7ajlq0eI&fs=1&hl=en_US%5D