How about a little accent?

17-Dec-2010

Pronunciation is crucial for the ability to “perform” in a foreign language. If your English sounds native, you are much more likely to be judged as an advanced English speaker. Teach your students how to observe and provide them with a skill set to imitate English vowel and consonant sounds, sentence stress and rhythm, and language melodies.

Meet Amy Walker and learn to observe, imitate and perform!

Use Amy Walker’s video “21 Accents” to make students aware of how different accents may sound. This video features a whole variety of different native and non-native accents: English, American, Australian, New Zealand, French, Italian and German. There are some more Videos by Amy about specific accents: RP, a deep southern American accent, and an Australian accent. You could use these videos if you’d like to focus on one or two accents (instead of 21!!).

Can your students tell how Amy’s accents differ from each other? Is it just pronunciation of sounds that makes accents sound unique? What else is involved?

Amy distinguishes “Five aspects of an Accent” – Pronunciation of vowels and consonants (Phonetics), Rhythm and Stress, Melody, Grammar and Word Choice, and Vibe. You could use them, or pick some, to provide your students with a framework of features to pay attention to when imitating or “performing” an accent.

Now, let your students pick their favourite accent from 21 Accents. Ask them to watch the video again and again and try to remember a couple of particular features of their accent. To practice the accent, ask them to repeat what Amy is saying in the video, imitating the accent until they feel comfortable. Then, ask them to replace Amy’s name with their own, and slowly change the actual content of the message.

Finally, pick any short listening activity or video featuring a dialogue on Macmillan English Campus such as “I can’t find my mobile” (just search for “dialogue” in the Word and Phrase search) and print out the audio script for your students. Now, ask your students to get in pairs and role play the dialogue in their accents. Try to match people practising different accents together – then it’s much more fun!
Once students are comfortable, ask them to record the dialogue with the Voice Record and Playback tool, and share their little accent play with the class! I’d recommend you to join in – it’s hilarious!

If you’d like to take this one step further, you could also ask them to perform this Fawlty towers sketch featuring Manuel’s Spanish accent and Basil’s RP!

Your students will now be aware of different accents in English. They might even be able to detect them in MEC exercises – look at “Interview with a restaurant manager”, “The weather in Scotland”, “Breakfast all over the world” and “Swimming with a whale”, and have them guess what accent it is they are listening to!

Eva Maria Schmidt

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