British Accent Practice: Test Your English Listening Skills
Summary: British Accent Practice
The simple answer to how to speak with a British accent naturally is listening practice. Which means lots of listening to natural English speakers who are speaking received pronunciation (sometimes called The Queens English) which is the British accent used in the South of England.
The more you tune your hearing to the British accent the more normal it will sound to you. If you listen to Americans speaking English or Australians, then you will adopt their accents.
Naturally we (Being based in London, UK) would say the British English accent is the easiest to listen to. However, we are bias! If all you want is to speak English then any English-speaking accent will do. We advise you to stick with one though, in the early days we recommend you listen to one speaker's voice in one accent.
When you think about it, that's quite a commitment, you will need to make sure that there will be enough appropriate listening material to study from that one voice.
Audio Transcript: British Accent Practice: Test Your English Listening Skills
Hi and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. This is our Monday podcast and therefore it’s slightly longer than our Thursday podcast. But we put out two podcasts every week, so that you can practise your English language understanding – and using this, improve your fluency.
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British Accent Practice is necessary
One of the things which can be difficult when you come to understand English is accent. ‘Accent’ is spelt A-C-C-E-N-T – and it means the way that you speak, the way that you pronounce words, especially when it’s different to the standard way of saying the words, the standard pronunciation. And it’s usually to do with where you come from. In the UK, there are lots of regional accents. So some British Accent Practice is a good idea. If you listen to Adept English regularly, you’ll be used to my voice and my way of pronouncing things. Yet my accent isn’t quite standard English.
I’m from the North of England, so I’ve got a slightly northern accent. It’s not very strong, because I was only 18 years old when I left the north of England – so now I’ve got more of a general English accent. So don’t worry, if you sound like me, because you listen to Adept English a lot! People from the UK will be able to understand you well. My accent is only noticeable on certain words – so I say ‘bath’ and ‘grass’, with a short ‘a’ sound in the middle. If you’re from the south of the UK, you would say ‘baaath’ and ‘graaass’ - but that difference is not enough to mean that people don’t understand you.
However, some regional accents can be very strong – and some are difficult even for English people to understand. When I say ‘regional accents’ - ‘regional’ means they come from a particular region, a particular area. So some British Accent Practice – practise at understanding certain British accents will be helpful to you in your learning. So the accent I’m going to look at today is the Scottish accent.
An Example of a Scottish Accent
So here is an example of a man talking with a Scottish accent. There are a number of Scottish accents, but just let’s go with a general one. I’ve just chosen this from YouTube and he is talking about salmon fishing. He’s standing by the side of a river, watching another man who is learning to fish for salmon. So ‘fish’ F-I-S-H are animals which swim in water – and which we sometimes catch and eat.
So the verb for catching fish is ‘to fish’. And salmon, S-A-L-M-O-N is the kind of fish here. And salmon live in rivers. And the Scottish actually are famous for producing salmon. So the Scottish man is standing by a river, watching one of his students learning to fish and he’s asked ‘How’s this person doing, this person who is learning to fish for salmon?’ And this is the Scottish man’s reply. See how much of it you can understand.
So, I don’t know how much of that you understood? At this point, you may want to look at the transcript, the written version of this podcast, which as always, you can find on our website at adeptenglish.com. The transcript may help you. But British Accent Practice is difficult, so we could break this task of understanding down a bit more.
Let’s make this easier to understand!
If I read out the transcript – if I read out to you what the man with the Scottish accent is saying first of all, it may be easier. Then when I’ve done that, I’ll run through any vocabulary that‘s difficult or that may be difficult. Then when you play the podcast through a second time and listen again to the man speaking, I think you’ll understand some more! So here is what he said, but see if you can understand better with my accent, which you’ve heard before. So he says:-
“He’s doing very well at the moment actually. Erm...he just needs to slow things down, just a little bit. And he just wants to take his time on his forward cast. We’ll have him….by the end, by the end of the morning, we’ll have him...all that’ll be sorted out, like. But the secret is that you give the people their space. Let them get in the river, let them fish, let them enjoy the fishing. Let them feel their rods – don’t be on their case all day, like. I can soon sort it out – this takes five minutes. There’s a perfect example. Only been fishing for the last twenty minutes and look at that - perfect anchor point, perfect loop going across the river.”
So maybe you could understand that a little more easily?
Helpful vocabulary to understand the clip
Just some vocabulary to understand here. He says ‘He’s doing very well at the moment actually. He just needs to slow things down, just a little bit’. So the man is commenting on the other man’s progress in learning to fish. And as often with any new skill – it’s a good idea to go slowly. He then says “He just needs to take his time on the forward cast”. So, if you imagine someone fishing with a rod – that’s like a stick – and a line, so a thin piece of rope or chord, with a hook on the end – exactly what you use to catch fish in a river. The ‘forward cast’ refers to how the man throws the line into the river. If you’ve ever fished, you’ll know that how you ‘cast’, how you throw the line is important. So the ‘forward cast’ - just means how the man is throwing the line forward – and ‘forward’ just means in front of him, in front of himself.
The next sentence is difficult, because the man starts a sentence, and then appears to change his mind and says what he means another way. So he says ‘We’ll have him….by the end of the morning, we’ll have him...’ It sounds as though he’s going to say ‘We’ll have him fishing really well’. But instead of saying this, the man says ‘all that’ll be sorted out’. So the meaning is the same – the verb ‘to sort out’ in English is something that we use quite a lot. Usually if you ‘sort something out’, it means you solve the problem, you make the situation OK. He then says ‘The secret is that you give people their space. Let them get in the river, let them fish, let them enjoy the fishing.’ OK – so that’s like any good teacher – let the person learning have some space, let them discover and learn for themselves. He then says ‘Let them feel their rods – don’t be on their case all day, like’.
So firstly ‘Let them feel their rods’ - the rod is the part of the fishing equipment which is like a stick – so we would talk about ‘a fishing rod’. So the man is saying ‘Let people get a feel for the rod, let them get used to how the fishing rod feels’. And he says ‘Don’t be on their case all day, like’. The verb ‘to be on someone’s case’ - means that you’re speaking to them all the time, reminding them of their errors, nagging them, if you like. It’s the opposite of ‘give them space to learn’. So it’s quite a common phrase ‘to be on someone’s case’. If I would like my daughter to tidy her bedroom – which is a horrible mess sometimes – it’s necessary for me to be ‘on her case’. But if you’re learning something and you’re really interested in it, the worst thing is to have someone ‘on your case’.
You need space to be left to learn. So ‘Don’t be on their case all day, like’. What about the word ‘like’ at the end of that sentence? It’s just an expression that people use. It’s very colloquial - you wouldn’t hear somebody say that if they were reading the news. But sometimes people add expressions like this to their sentences. It’s like the word ‘Well...’ when people go ‘Um...well...’ It doesn’t really mean a lot. It doesn’t add a lot of meaning. So not just British Accent Practice then, but also recognising colloquialisms that English speakers use – like ‘…,like’.
The man goes on ‘I can soon sort it out – it takes five minutes’. So that’s probably easy to understand – I think he means that if anyone has a question, or a problem – he can advise, he can teach them really quickly. For the last couple of sentences, just picture the scene or go and look at it on YouTube. The man is standing talking by the river and one of his students, one of the people learning to fish, is standing right in the river, up to the tops of his legs in the water, but casting his fishing rod really well. So the man is talking now about how quickly it’s possible to learn to fish like this.
He says “There’s a perfect example. Only been fishing for the last twenty minutes and look at that - perfect anchor point, perfect loop going across the river.” When he says ‘perfect anchor point’ - he’s talking about how the man has positioned his feet, how he’s firmly standing in the river as if he’s ‘anchored’. He’s not going to be pushed over by the water. An ‘anchor’ - ‘A-N-C-H-O-R’ is what you use to secure a boat – it’s like a metal hook. So no metal hook here, but the use of the verb ‘to anchor’, means to fix firmly – so the other man has fixed his feet firmly in the river, as if he’s anchored.
The Scottish man then comments also ‘Perfect loop going across the river’. ‘Perfect’ means no errors, no problems – and a loop? Well, here he’s talking about the shape that the line makes when it’s cast, when it’s thrown. A loop is almost a circle in shape – but it’s the shape made when a piece of rope or chord, here ‘fishing line’, crosses itself. So he’s really commenting on the way that his student is fishing really well - ‘after only twenty minutes’.
For British Accent Practice – play it again!
What’s really important about this piece, is not so much the vocabulary, though I think we’ve covered some useful words. The purpose here is more to give you some British Accent Practice - with the Scottish accent. So now hopefully you’ve understood the meaning of what the man is saying – you’ve heard me say it – and we’ve run through the vocabulary.
Now it’s time to play this podcast again – possibly several times – and listen to the recording of the Scottish man again. See if you can understand what he’s saying this time. It will mean that you’ve had some good British Accent Practice and that if you meet someone with a Scottish accent, you’ll be more prepared.
Good luck! Let us know how you find this podcast, whether it’s helpful, and if you want us to do more of these with different accents. If you go to the transcript, you can find the link to the video on YouTube as well.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
PS: Although different British accents can confuse it’s not usually a problem
You should aim for an accent that works in a business meeting or a coffee shop. So be careful who you spend your valuable time listening to as they will shape your English accent going forward. Or you can continue to listen to Hilary and be happy knowing you're getting exactly what you need!
A neutral British English accent is what you should aim for. Slightly posh because it uses the correct diction and pronunciation of vocabulary. But not so posh as to sound pretentious or silly to a listener.
Even English people who have lived their whole lives in the UK can struggle to understand more extreme British accents. There are areas of the UK renowned for their accent, Glasgow in Scotland, or Northern Ireland spring to mind. But to be honest, you might spend your whole life in the UK and never experience a problem understanding people living in these areas. Most Scottish or Northern Irish speak perfectly understandable British English.
As always, if you don‘t like this article or you already know about wonder and wander there are many more articles on common English phrases to listen to here.
You can always find more interesting learn English articles here.