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?