English Accents and Dialects

ID-100109154 worldsetEach region of the globe that speaks English as it’s native language has developed it’s own version of spoken English, in the form of a dialect. Spelling and grammar used depends on the country of origin, for example people in Australia and New Zealand use British spelling and grammar.

To make things more complicated, within each region there are variations. People who grew up in New York speak differently to people who grew up in Florida even though they both live in the USA. In some countries, like England, the dialect can change every couple of miles (or kilometres)?

So how do you choose which dialect to use?

Expanding your experience with English accents and dialects will, in the long run, improve your ability to speak and understand spoken English. Limiting yourself to one type of accent can make it difficult to understand different accents.

There are people living in the USA who have trouble understanding people from Scotland, for example.

As an English language student, you are at a great advantage. You have the opportunity to learn English using a number of accents. By varying your study methods and sources, you’ll naturally pick up the differences between accents and be able to develop your own.

All the audio files on this website are spoken with an Australian accent and all of the spellings follow British English. Whilst every effort has been made to keep the sounds within words accent neutral, there may still be a slight Australian accent present.

One of the differences between American and British English pronunciation is the placement of the unstressed vowel. So, when you use the Spell and Sound English Charts you might find it’s different to the English you’ve been listening to. The schwa sound often changes places between English and American English.

Listen to these two words;

Fragile

Fragile

Both words spelled the same but with different pronunciations on certain letters. Can you tell which word has the unstressed vowel?

One is spoken with an Australian accent the other with an American accent. Both are easy to understand and if you said either one to a native English speaker in either country, chances are they’ll understand what you said.

Exposing yourself to a variety of accents will improve your own pronunciation and understanding of the spoken word.

Here are a couple of ways you can increase your exposure to English dialects;

  • Try watching Youtube videos, TV or listening to radio in different accents
  • Take online English lessons (with audio) from England, USA, Australia etc.

Don’t be discouraged by English accents

Develop your ear for the language first and after you’ve mastered the basics, dialects are easier to identify. The English language has a huge amount of variation from spelling, to grammar and dialects so don’t be disheartened if your progress is slow when you first start.

To help you move between the different versions of modern English, take some time to explore the differences between American and British spelling.

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Image courtesy of [rattigon] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You might also be interested in…

How to spell and pronounce English words
English and American spelling differences
Free English as a second language phonics Charts
Listen to English Sounds
Interactive English Alphabet

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