miércoles, 27 de octubre de 2010

English accents

The first time I went to the UK, I stayed for many weeks in a college 30 minutes away from Cambridge. Mostly, we went to the pub in the evenings and played football on our free time. Almost every afternoon we practiced with the college coach and on the weekends we usually played other teams from nearby towns. The coach was a nice guy who liked to come in play in the team now and then but had a terrible accent to understand. Once during a game, I saw him shouting at me from the side of the pitch, since I could not hear well, I went near him to pick the instructions. All I heard was*: /séiza/ /nambaráit/ What? /nambaráit/ he repeated, angrily, and put up eight fingers in the air. Oh, I got it, he wants me to watch player number eight. So I did, but there a was a rough play involving me and this number eight guy. He got angry (let´s say I had no silk gloves on), turned to me and shouted /yiúdertawáinka/. I got “you dirty…” but that was it. Later I discovered what “wanker” was.
Accents are such an adventure, and an important part of language and culture. In our last post, American and British English were dealt with, in kind of a light hearted manner (with the help of Dr. House himself), but we must not forget that the English language does not restrict to those two variations. Regional pronunciations are a delight, they show how different the language we teach can be “out there,” away from the stiff pages of a textbook, the RP of the BBC, or the silk voices of VOA. Experiencing them makes you feel so alive… and how much you still have to learn. At least that´s how I feel, but I guess the point is not to remain static but to grow from the experience, improve.
For those of you, curious enough to devote some time to exploration, I have these web sites that will blow your minds off. Visit Sounds familiar? and listen to UK regional accent samples. For other accent samples, including many American variations, Australian and Canadian, go to the Audio Archive
Thanks to Giovanni Gonzales and AmigoBryan for their notes on my post of Sunday 24th. All of you out there are welcome to comment, that makes me feel I am not posting up all these for nobody!
Have fun.
Cesar Klauer
PS: Do not forget we are on Facebook too.

*This keyboard does not have symbols, so I used the regular script to symbolize speech... sorry, but, that´s all I could do.

2 comentarios:

Cesar Klauer dijo...

Norma Bustamante said:
"You are right Cesar. The first time I arrived in the UK and went from London to Lancaster, first the London accent(cockney) and then the northern accent... well I thought I was not in an English speaking country and/or the English I was so proud of would not be of any help for my M.A. Gradually I started to pick what they were saying to me in the market, at the stores,etc. The problem was outside the university, fortunately all the lecturers used R.P.pronunciation."

AmigoBryan dijo...

As many people might know, a British RP "accent" (variation of English) is often considered to be of higher status here in the States. (I can't say for Canada, but I would think it's the same.) In commercials directed at higher quality items, the Received Pronunciation (RP) is used, but at times even a London working class accent is used to raise the status of a product for the "masses".

But normally, many of us in the US are used to either an Inland Northern American English accent (which I tend to speak):


Or the Midland American English Accent:


Both of these share aspects of General American English, but they're not the same. You can go from Milwaukee to Chicago to St. Louis and you will hear slight to great variations in pronunciation, collocations and even grammar.


We often think that RP is the only UK English, but as Cesar so rightly points out, depending on where in the UK, London, or other regions, you cannot be sure of what they are saying until you "tune in" to the variation being used. That's the same in North America, too.

I have found this site to be of great use in helping students of English to realize the importance of pronunciation, collocations and certain grammar in being understood as well as understanding what a native speaker is saying.

The International Dialects of English Archive:
(I thank founder Paul Meier immensely for creating this resource.)

Finally, after attending several presentations of Cambridge author Michael McCarthy in Lima, I realized finally that teaching grammar alone is pointless when you don't address issues of pronunciation and collocations. Several of my students, having probably attended years of English instruction and come to me barely able to speak and hear (but well able to read and write) flourished in a program focusing on articulation and pronunciation first, grammar only in teachable moments.

I hope everyone who has the time to do some listening to IDEA sound files will begin to appreciate the importance of going beyond "book English", whether UK or North American.