What is an accent?
An accent is a way a person or a group puts emphasis on different parts of a word. It also refers to the rhythm with which a person or a group speaks ANY language. It can also refer to the speed at which a person speaks
So how many types of accents are there?
Well, there are a lot. There are a large array of different accents within primarily English speaking countries, like the US and England, and there are a large array of foreign English accents.
Can I learn an accent?
ABSOLUTELY.... The ability to learn accents and different dialects take training, patience and voice talent. As many people say, the best way to learn a foreign accent or dialect is to speak it. ... One of the hardest things to learn in the voice acting business is speaking in other accents.
How do I go about understanding people from the US?
It’s quite easy, we are exposed to US accent everytime we watch an English movie... here are some tips:
So today’s episode you’ll learn how to understand fast spoken English. Let’s go!
- UNDERSTAND REDUCTIONS IN ENGLISH SPEAKING
Americans reduce a lot of sounds when they speak. For example, you read “Don’t you want to get a coffee later?”
Then we squish it all together when we speak, and it becomes /Duhwntchuh wanna gedduh coffee layder?/ We reduce “don’t you” to /duhwntchuh/, “want to” becomes /wanna/ and “get a” becomes /gedduh/.
You have to notice these to start understanding real English. To help you, I created an American Accent Survival Kitthat gives you audio exercises for 12 everyday expressions. Go get it! Seriously. And it’s free!
- DON’T DEPEND ON SLOW ENGLISH
If you want to understand the way Americans really speak, you have to listen to real spoken English. A lot of books to study English give you audio that is slow, or clearly articulated. In the real world, it’s not like that. I’m sure you’ve noticed!
So you need to also study English the way it’s really spoken. My video series “Tame The Hot Potato” helps you do that. For each video, you can get a worksheet to help you understand our everyday conversations in real spoken English.
- KEEP ON PRACTICING YOUR ENGLISH
How many of you depend on television series and movies to improve your English comprehension? I know you do. TV is good and fun, but it’s not enough. You have to consciously work. Study. Do listening exercises
The site elllo.org is one of my favorites for this, plus you can watch this video for an idea on how to use the site to improve your listening skills. And there’s also this lesson and this lesson where you can do some exercises.
- PRACTICE THE “AUDIO FLOOD”
If you’re thinking “Vishaal” I don’t even understand ‘audio flood’!”, let me explain. A flood is like when it rains a lot, a lot, a lot, and there’s a lot of water everywhere. In the streets, the houses. That’s a flood.
You have to flood your brain with audio in English. This is where movies and TV series are useful. You can also listen to American radio stations with the smartphone app TuneIn Radio.
Or listen to podcasts in English. My favorite for learning English is All Ears English because it’s English lessons but in real spoken English.
- PRACTICE YOUR ACTIVE VS PASSIVE LISTENING
You see, there’s a difference between active and passive listening. And you need both. Most students have too much passive listening and that’s why their comprehension improves slowly.
You have learned a few activities earlier, and here’s one more active listening activities that will boost your comprehension AND your pronunciation:
Shadow reading. Here’s how you do shadow reading.
- Get the transcript of the audio you listen to. For example, on elllo. You have the transcript of each audio on the site.
- As you listen, you read with the speaker. Not listen and repeat. You match the speaker’s speed, intonation, everything.
It’s that simple! This makes you more conscious of how the words sound when they’re spoken at normal “American” speed.
And what is the British accent easier to understand?
Well, when a person says “British accent” often we may get confused, as the British accent on it’s own doesn’t exist; remember that Britain consists of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, all of which have distinct English speaking accents.
What we are going to focus on today is the typical standard British accent or rather something closer to the “Queen’s English”.
Now let’ talk about the Australian accent, how is that different?
So, I have heard visitors to Australia often remark about the difficulty in understanding the language. People from non-English speaking backgrounds who may have had the chance to study English at home still struggle to comprehend the Aussie vernacular and accent. Even Those from English-speaking countries such as the USA and England even find things difficult on occasion.
Why is it so difficult to understand Australian Accent?
When it comes to understanding the Australian accent, it’s useful to point out that not all Australians speak exactly the same way. But unlike other countries, where accents vary slightly depending on the part of the country from which someone comes, in Australia accents are more likely to differ based on class factors. Two people living in the city on opposite sides of the country — say, Sydney and Perth — might sound exactly the same, despite the distance. However, someone from the rural areas of Victoria is likely to sound different to someone coming from it’s capital, Melbourne.
Australian accents can be split into three categories — broad, general and cultivated. Broad accents are generally used by rural Australians and can be likened to the exaggerated accents people like Paul Hogan and Steve Irwin presented to the world. General accents are the most common and are most likely to be used in metropolitan areas; Aussies like Hugh Jackman or Jennifer Hawkins employ this kind of accent. Finally, there’s the cultivated Australian accent, which has more similarities to British English and can be heard by the likes of Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis
So how do we go about understanding the Australian Accent?
One of the most common habits of Australian language is the tendency for speakers to run words into each other. While most Australians will avoid this when speaking one on one with someone from another country, if a foreigner finds themselves in a mixing in a group of most Australians, they often find the conversation hard to follow. In some cases, Australians will leave off certain syllables altogether; the suffix “ing”, for example. “I’m going to the football tonight”, then, may become “I’m go’n the football tonight” when many Australians are speaking in their local dialect.
Any difference in words in Australian English?
Australians also have a tendency to avoid pronouncing the “R” at the end of words. For example, a word like “bar” will be pronounced “ba” and a word like “doctor” will be pronounced “docta”. They also often shorten common words by taking the first syllable and adding a vowel. “Afternoon” will become “arvo”, service station will become “servo”, barbecue will become “barbie” and breakfast will become “brekky”. This is also commonly done with people’s names; somebody with the surname “McDonald” will probably become “Macca”, and someone with the surname “Roberts” will generally become “Robbo”.
You may also notice Australians use terms that you recognize in a way you may not be familiar with. Take the term “heaps”, for example, which is used in place of “really”. Something that is “really good” will be “heaps good”, or someone who is really sick will be described as “heaps sick”. Although we should point out, sick doesn’t necessarily mean “ill”, either — in Australia it could mean “great”! Yep, we’re a confusing bunch.
Finally, one final thing to note is that Australians have a habit of answering a question with a double negative. “Not bad” is a common response to the question “how are you”. If an Australian agrees with something you’ve said, they may say, “You’re not wrong.” Or perhaps they think something is nice, or good — they might say that it’s “not too shabby.
Listen to interviews of popular Australian Hollywood actors on youtube, actors like Nicole Kidman, Chris Hemsworth (He acts in the Avenger's movies as Thor), Hugh Jackman or watch Australian shows like Home and Away and Packed to the Rafters.