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Overview of 8 distinctive English accents

You’ve probably noticed that the English you learned at school doesn’t sound the same as the English spoken in American TV shows. Of course, you already knew that! There are significant phonetic differences between British English and English from across the Atlantic. However, the range of English accents is much wider than that! From London to Texas to Australia, our ears sometimes have trouble distinguishing between the different English accents. So, to help them get used to it, here’s a quick overview of the most distinctive accents.

1. Received Pronunciation (RP): the standard British accent

This is the English taught at school or the one you hear on the BBC. You might think that this is the most common British accent… but it’s not. In reality, it is standardised English that is intended to be as neutral as possible. In reality, few English speakers speak with this accent. However, everyone understands it easily!

2. The Welsh accent

Not surprisingly, this is the accent that can be heard in Wales. Of course, there is not just one Welsh accent. There are several variations depending on whether you are in the north or south of the country. Its particular tone is said to come from Cymraeg, a Welsh language of Celtic origin.

3. The Irish accent

Just like Welsh, there are many different Irish accents. A native of Dublin will not speak in quite the same way as a native of Galway, but there are certain similarities, such as the particular way of pronouncing the -i or -r.

4. The Scottish accent

Ah! The famous Scottish accent, which we have already mentioned in our article -”Tips to improve your English pronunciation”.

This one has the reputation of being particularly difficult to understand. However, with its slightly rolled -r, it is worth a try!

5. General American accent: standard American English

This is the equivalent of the famous RP (received pronunciation), but for the United States. It is a fairly standardised American accent which tries to remain neutral with regard to regional accents. Of course, this is not the accent you will hear most often from our American friends.

6. The Southern accent

You’ve probably seen American films in the original language, in which you couldn’t understand many of the dialogues. This is probably because the characters had a strong southern accent. Indeed, it’s not only in France where the southern accent is particularly distinctive! Again, there are nuances depending on the state you are in. Texas, South Carolina or even Mississippi: the southern accent is quite colourful.

In the video below, the famous actress Reese Witherspoon decodes the typical slang words of Southern Americans.

7. The Australian (Aussie) accent

If you’ve ever had the chance to visit Australia, you’ll have noticed that Australian English has a lot of special features. Apart from the fact that -r’s at the end of words are rarely pronounced, Australians also tend to shorten words in… original ways!

💡 You might also like: Overcoming your fear of speaking a language: causes and solutions.

8. The New Zealand accent (Kiwi)

New Zealand’s English is no exception when it comes to pronunciation and vocabulary. Perhaps the most striking feature of this accent is the way New Zealanders pronounce -e as -i and vice versa. In the excerpt below, you can practise detecting this distinctive feature of the Kiwi accent and you will also learn the main lexical differences with American English.

The different English accents: what you should know

This list of accents is far from exhaustive! We could add Canadian, South African, Indian and many other accents. In addition, each accent has its own variations.

To all these accents of native English speakers, we can add those of people who have learned English as a second language… In the end, there are probably dozens of English accents and it would be very difficult to list them all.

Would you like to practise listening to a whole range of English accents? This young British impersonator’s video should make your day.

At 1to1PROGRESS, you can choose your English trainer, and therefore his or her accent! British, American, Indian… your ears will be able to soak up the sounds and tones of the English accent you want to learn about.