Different Accents in English and How to Teach Them in Your Classroom

As teachers, we want to help our students have correct pronunciation and be easily understandable to other English speakers. We also want to be sure they use the language properly. But sometimes we forget that there are many different varieties of English!

In this article, we will talk about why it is important for your students to have contact with different accents and kinds of English.

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What is an accent?

An accent is a certain way that someone speaks English. It includes many different aspects, like pronunciation, rhythm, tone, cadence (the rise and fall of the voice in speaking), and speed. We often think of  a simple division between U.S. and British English, but this is a bit too simple!

There are many different accents in the United Kingdom and in the United States, and there are also many other countries where English is spoken! The truth is, there is a very wide variety of accents in English. 

And of course, with so many people learning English today, your students will often use English to speak to other people whose first language is different. When we talk about proper pronunciation, the goal is really for your students to be easily understood by other speakers. They do not have to sound exactly like a native speaker!

a lady speaking at a podium

Which one is correct?

When you travel to English-speaking countries or listen to English speakers from different places, you will notice that some speakers use the language in different ways. Of course the idioms are different, and so are the prepositions and even a lot of the vocabulary!

For example, a woman from Manchester, England might ask her friend from New York, USA what she will do at the weekend. She will put the emphasis on the second syllable of the word: week-END. The New Yorker will respond that he will ride his bike on the WEEK-end.

So, which is correct? At the week-END or on the WEEK-end?

Well, they both are! These are just different kinds of English. Speakers from different places use different words to express themselves, but these uses are correct for their kind of English.

a radio announcer

So, what should I do as a teacher?

The first step is to be very clear about your goals when you are working on speaking and listening with your students.

1. As for speaking, the important thing to keep in mind is that your students should be easy to understand. They should pronounce the words correctly, but they should also focus on enunciation. That means saying all of the sounds and words clearly and distinctly, slowly enough for others to understand easily.

Of course, it is easier for your students to copy one accent when they are starting to learn English. But remember that perfection is not the goal, especially when students are starting! Your student does not need to sound like he or she was born in Wellington, New Zealand or Ontario, Canada! They must simply speak clearly and correctly so that they can interact easily with other English speakers.

Be sure to make this clear to your students. It is very hard to learn a new language, and if your students expect to be perfect speakers, they will face a lot of frustration and disappointment. Encourage them to practice speaking, and remind them that there is not one "perfect" way to speak English.

So the main goal is for the students to be able to clearly communicate their message. Then they can work on improving their accent to the point of a native speaker in a certain English speaking area.

2. For listening, you can help your students by exposing them to many different accents. You can find many wonderful free materials on the internet. For example, you can try BBC 6 Minute English for beginner and intermediate students. You will hear many different kinds of English in their programs!

For more advanced students, you can use TED talks. These speeches are about many different topics, and the speakers are from all over the world. This is excellent practice for your advanced students, and you can work together to find the topics that are the most interesting for them.

Finally, encourage your students to watch documentaries, movies, or television series that they find interesting. They can also listen to music by bands from different countries around the world.

Find out what your students are interested in and help them to find content related to these topics. The more fun your students have, and the greater the variety of accents and kinds of English they listen to, the better they will be at understanding speakers from different parts of the world!

A confident student

Finally, always encourage your students to find opportunities to speak out loud. If they can find native speakers to talk to, that's wonderful! But it is also great practice for them to speak to other English learners. If they need models, they can start by practicing written dialogues before they have more open conversations.


You can even play fun games with your advanced students by playing clips of different accents. Who can guess correctly where each accent is from? As always, try to make your lessons fun and interesting and keep your students active and involved in their learning. You will all have a great time and make wonderful progress!

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