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English accents and pronunciations

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The Interview


Maria: Hello, lovely. We have a special episode today. There is no Rory. I have a special guest on this podcast. We have Christopher William Herbert.

Chris: Hello!

Maria: Chris is an English teacher an IELTS teacher and a teacher trainer. We've been working together with Chris for two months in Pyategorsk. And today we're going to be talking about accents and pronunciation. Chris, where are you from?

Chris: Birmingham.

Maria: Birmingham, where is it?

Chris: In the middle of England. Bang in the middle of England.

Maria: Do you have an accent?

Chris: I do or I don't. I have no accent and an accent. I mean, I'm from Birmingham and my parents weren't from Birmingham, so I suppose they just spoke sort of RP. And that's basically my accent. But of course, I went to school with Brummies and I've got a bit of a Brummie accent and it was much stronger when I was younger.

Maria: So Brummie is an accent of Birmingham.

Chris: Yeah, well, Brummie is just slang for something or somebody from Birmingham. So Brummie accent, Brummie person.

Maria: I'm going to ask you a question now. Could you answer it using this Brummie accent? What do you usually do in your free time?

Chris: Well, you know, I used to have loads of hobbies, but, well, mostly going down the pub with my mates, but that's not possible nowadays. So I'm stuck at home twiddling my thumbs.

Maria: Wow, amazing. But you don't speak like that normally?

Chris: Well, sometimes I do. You know, it depends how relaxed or drunk I am, you know... If I'm in Birmingham, if I'm surrounded with Brummies, you know, it's a sliding scale, you know?

Maria: Dear listener, do you actually like Brummie accent?

Chris: Well, I think a lot of Brummies, you know, in England, it gets a lot of stick. You know, people take the piss out of, you know, the Birmingham accent. And, you know, it was always seen as a kind of... As a negative thing, you know? And I think that's one of the reasons why I don't have... I try to not really have a very accent. But do I like it to your question? Well, now that "Peaky Blinders" has made Birmingham hit, you know, "By order of the Peaky Blinders!".

Maria: Yeah! Chris, what about my accent? Do I have an accent?

Chris: What? You have María's accent, which is a sort of er mongrel mix of various British accents, you know, with a fundamental undercurrent of Russian.

Maria: Yeah, Russian accent! If you were to make an impression of Russian accent... 

Chris: I would say Russian accent...

Maria: Where is my vodka?

Chris: Sorry, very stereotype.

Maria: Chris, do you drink vodka everyday?

Chris: Vodka? I drink Newcastle Brown Ale everyday. 

Maria: Yeah can actually...

Chris: Everybody thinks I like vodka. But no...

Maria: But no, you don't... 

Chris: No. Newcastle Brown Ale only.

Maria: Chris is drinking water and drinks water and you say water. Right?

Chris: Water.

Maria: Yeah. You don't say woer?

Chris: I'm not from London. Water water water.

Maria: But some people say that Russian accent is horrible. Would you agree?

Chris: I couldn't disagree more. I think it's lovely. It's musical, it's forceful. But it has a as a kind of sensitive side to it. I think it's a great balance between, you know, musicality and toughness.

Maria: Yeah. All Russian listeners be proud of your Russian accent. Yes. Chris, do native speakers have accents?

Chris: Well, if you're talking about native speakers from England, you got a huge variety of accents. That's just England. Not not to mention Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland, you know, and of course, you know, if its different languages, you know, even like Cornwall and stuff. So there's huge variety of accents, you know, even within some big cities like Manchester or London, you've got different accents. You know, there's different in home counties just outside London and north of the river, south of the river. So the answer is yes.

Maria: And can you understand people from Wales, for example?

Chris: People from Wales, they have such a lovely accent and they're so musical and it's reflected in the way they speak.

Maria: If you could choose an accent, which accent would it be?

Chris: Konechno Russkiy.

Maria: Yeah!

Chris: No, I like listening to Russian and I like imitating it, but I think I'm probably typical. Well, I imagine that I'm typical in that I think your accent is just part of you. It's not something you choose. You know, it's like trying to choose your face, you know, something that is just there and it's part of who you are. You know, the idea of choosing it seems kind of weird, you know, unless you're an actor or something, you know, you like doing it. But if it's an accent that, you know, you feel natural just speaking, I mean... It seems a strange thing to do. And when people try and adopt an accent, you know, it comes over is really artificial.

Maria: But some people are embarrassed and some people want to sound like native speakers. But again, native speakers from Wales, from Scotland? And they feel kind " meh I have an accent" It's not beautiful. But they shouldn't think like that, right?

Chris: No, I don't think so. I mean, again, it's about clarity and authenticity, really, isn't it? You know, and if you're trying to if you're all the time trying to put something on, you know, that's inevitably going to come across... there's going to be problems in the way that you come across.

Maria: It's a unnatural.

Chris: I think so.

Maria: So should people be proud of their accents?

Chris: Unequivocally, yes, I think so, yeah. As long as, you know, you can make yourself understood and you're articulate, express yourself well. I mean, the accent is just some extra spice, you know. Absolutely.

Maria: Yeah, it's extra spice. Extra spice, you know, variety. Yes. Even if you speak like this, like Italian accent, the French accent they're all beautiful! 

Chris: Absolutely, they've all got their quirks and their charms, that's right.

Maria: Spanish English - Spanglish!

Chris: Spanglish. Yes.

Maria: In IELTS Speaking is it OK to have an accent?

Chris: I think it's it's not an issue. I mean, the only issue really is, you know, do you make yourself clear? Do you have clear pronunciation? You know, do you have an expressive intonation so that you can emphasize the information you're trying to get across. I don't think the accent is really an issue. And in fact, I'd probably say, you know, It's a good idea not to think about your accent, because if you're... You know, you've got a lot to think about anyway. So if you're thinking, oh, you know, I should be speaking like this, you know, you're giving yourself so much extra work to do and it's probably going to impair your performance. So I would definitely advise IELTS candidates to fully embrace the accent that they have.

Maria: Yeah, as long as it's clear, so the examiner should understand what you're saying, right?

Chris: Yeah, that's right. Absolutely. I think some some people get confused between, you know, accent and clarity. They kind of think: "OK, if I speak like this, it's good". But it's not really the point. And of course, there are so many different accents in the way that people speak English that, you know, trying to focus on one in this sort of very, you know, what's the word, multinational context is very impractical in a way, isn't it?

Maria: Yeah. It's like - I want to sound like a native speaker. But again, native speaker from London?

Chris: Yeah, right!

Maria: Native speaker from Wales. Like, what do you mean. 

Chris: BBC, You know...

Maria: Posh English? Would you like to sound like Queen? Even Queen Elizabeth II has an accent.

Chris: Well, she's got the Queen's English, which is a special kind of accent. Yes. And I don't think many people really want to have it, especially in England, you know...

Maria: She's posh.

Chris: Well, she's beyond posh, isn't she?

Maria: Beyond posh! It this upper class accent?

Chris: Über! Yes.

Maria: Yeah, because there're like, posh accents, there are are working class accents. And is it true that when you talk to people from Great Britain, you can tell where they're from, just from the accents?

Chris: Well, yeah, but I don't think that's just true for Britain, is it? I mean, does that happen in Russia? Do you have different accents across Russia? I mean, I think it's probably more the case in the UK compared to some other places. But I'm sure that it's not, you know, this is not a phenomenon that's restricted to the UK, but, yeah, yeah, totally.

Maria: Ok, Chris, we all pronounce different words in different ways. So I'm going to tell you the words that... I pronounce it like this, and you're going to just naturally tell me...

Chris: "Flower power".

Maria: Yes, we love this song "Flower Power"

Chris: Well, I've been forced to love it. I have finally taken it to heart. Yes.

Maria: Yes. We've been working with Chris for two months, so...

Chris: Indoctrination, yes!

Maria: So I say water.

Chris: Oh, do you?. Oh, how lovely! Water.

Maria: Sandwich.

Chris: Sandwich.

Maria: I love going to the cinema.

Chris: Oh good for you.

Maria: Cinema.

Chris: Cinema.

Maria: Bread and butter.

Chris: Bread and butter.

Maria: Mobile phone.

Chris: Mobile phone.

Maria: Schedule.

Chris: Schedule.

Maria: OK, wow. We're on the same page! Advertisement. 

Chris: Advertisement.

Maria: Either. 

Chris: Either. 

Maria: Neither.

Chris: Neither.

Maria: Oh you don't say either/neither.

Chris: No I don't think so. I think,it's either/neither. I also say "room" which is... Some people think is weird but I don't know why, where it came from...

Maria:  Like, my room?

Chris: Mm. I mean in Birmingham people say roooooom.

Maria: Lovely.

Chris: Yes it is lovely.

Maria: So you don't say luvely? It's luvle? Hey Luv!

Chris: That's more, of a Yorkshire thing. Lovely. Lovely, lovely, lovely. That's more of a northern thing, you know, I'm from the Midlands...

Maria: Could you give us some Manchester accent? 

Chris:  ...and you know, we're so miserable. I don't the word lovely is in our vocabulary. Erm, well my idea of a Manchester accent is kind of like nasel like this, you know, because when I was teenager there was a TV show called The Word, and it was, like, fronted by this guy called Terry Christian and he used to be like this, you know, and I used to love imitating him with my mates, you know.

Maria: Awesome! Manchester. What about this gonna/wanna. What you gonna do?.

*Some inaudible Jungle Books reference*

Maria: It's Jungle Books.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. I remember you showed us the video. Another one of your little favorite things that you managed to shoehorn into the proceedings. Yes.

Maria: But do you see this gonna/wanna?

Chris: Yeah, of course. Yeah. I think when you speak quickly, you know, it just it just happens naturally. Oh, I'm going to go and get a pack of cigarettes, you know? I think it just happens in English when you when you speak quickly and people do, you know.

Maria: What about this one: Don't go home alone.

Chris: Don't go home alone.

Maria: Beautiful. But you say it like "home".

Chris: Well, I would say home. Yeah.

Maria: Home.

Chris: Home. Don't go home alone.

Maria: No, this is not what you usually say.

Chris: No, it's not, but people in Birmingham might say it like that. Don't go home alone! That might be more Brummie. 

Maria: But even the word "No", you kinda say "No", not just "No".

Chris: No, no, no, no, no. 

Maria: And it's all fine, you know, like: No, no, no.

Chris: It's all weird diphthongs. triplethongs, quintuplethongs...

Maria: Chris, thank you very much for your lovely accent and for talking to me today.

Chris: No problem. Any time, love.