Various Varieties: How to Teach English Accents

By Friederike Fischer

students-99506_1280I recent­ly noticed that when­ev­er I read a book there is a voice inside my head. It’s my own voice. Me talk­ing – or rather think­ing – in Eng­lish. The curi­ous thing is that the voice uses dif­fer­ent accents depend­ing on the nation­al­i­ty of the author or my mood.


I am able to hear and use these dif­fer­ent accents because I know they exist. In school I only learned ‘stan­dard’ Amer­i­can Eng­lish, but the Eng­lish lan­guage is actu­al­ly much more col­or­ful and excit­ing than stan­dard Eng­lish alone. As a future Eng­lish teacher, I think that stu­dents should get the chance to get in con­tact with all the Eng­lish varieties.

The speech accent archive allows users to lis­ten to and get infor­ma­tion on a large num­ber of Eng­lish accents. Native and non-native speak­ers have been record­ed while read­ing the same short Eng­lish text. “The archive is con­struct­ed as a teach­ing tool and as a research tool.” Users sim­ply have to click on a map to select a region (for exam­ple, North Amer­i­ca) and after­wards choose one of the lit­tle flags (let’s say Brook­lyn, New York). The infor­ma­tion they get con­sists of a writ­ten para­graph, a pho­net­ic tran­scrip­tion, an audio file, and bio­graph­i­cal data of the speak­er. The archive is an excel­lent tool for the EFL (Eng­lish as a For­eign Lan­guage) class­room since it engages the learner’s inter­est and can be used interactively.

So why not have a look?

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