How to Get a British Accent
This is, without a doubt, the most frequent question I get asked online, and of course, I’m very happy that people are interested in learning my dialect of English – that is, British English.
Improving an accent can take a lot of time and it might not even become noticeable for a few years, but there are things you can do early on in your studies to give you a good foundation for your accent.
Why Should I Speak with British Pronunciation?
There are a few reasons why you might want to do this.
Firstly, if you are planning on going to the United Kingdom or talking or working with Brits, speaking in the same accent as them might gain you some more respect.
The other reason, and in my opinion the most important, is to be clearly understood. Even advanced speakers will make mistakes in their pronunciation and their accent might stop them being easily understood, so improving your accent will avoid misunderstandings and confusion.
But! Please keep in mind that accents are a sign of where you come from and you should be proud of that. All accents are beautiful and no one has the “perfect” accent. So never be discouraged by the way you talk.
A huge difference is in the R sound. Americans often pronounce the R quite strongly, whereas us Brits tend not to pronounce it much at all. The R has the effect of making the vowel sound longer. Listen to these examples.
Cat / Cart
People across the pond (in the USA) will frequently pronounce T’s almost like a D sound. If you’re aiming for British pronunciation, it’s important to stress the T sound, such as in these words below.
Listen to How People Speak
Of course, the easiest way to improve your accent is to simply listen to how people speak. Really pay attention to the sounds they are making when they talk and watch the way their mouth moves.
A helpful technique, known as shadowing, is when you repeat the sentences after you hear them. Say the phrases out loud and see how closely you can mimic the accent on the TV or computer.
Listen to Your Voice
This can feel awkward, but recording yourself talking English and listening to it back can reveal areas in which you need to improve. It’s actually quite scary how different your voice is when you listen to it on a recording.
Learn British Words
My final advice for today is to learn British variants of words. This is less related to accent but is still an important step to sounding more ‘British’.
Here are some examples below looking at the difference between British and American English:
British — American
Jumper / Sweater
Mobile Phone / Cell Phone
Rubbish / Trash
Trainers / Sneakers
Chips / Fries
Crisps / Potato Chips
Biscuit / Cookie
Flat / Apartment