On my first teaching day at IH Newcastle, at least three different students said this to me:
My friend told me that if I can understand Geordie, I will be able to understand any English.
While I don’t know if this is necessarily true, it started an interesting discussion about accents, and the students observed that my accent was not a local one* (many of them are staying with host families). I decided to put together a set of materials to raise their awareness of the variety of accents in the UK. While it’s not comprehensive, it should provide a jumping off point for students to find out more.
- Discuss the questions in small groups. (Almost all of my students wanted to speak English without other people knowing where they were from, prompting a quick side discussion on accent and identity)
- Place the towns and cities on the map (sorry, no answer key, but Google will tell you if you don’t already know) ;)
- Look at the paragraphs written in different accents/dialects. Compare them to the Standard English and find one feature of pronunciation plus one words which is particular to that accent (this was meant as a way to play with the accents, and show how different they can be.)
- Watch and listen to the videos/sound clips (posted below, with links in the document too) and grade them according to the criteria in the table.
- Mingle and compare your opinions to those of other students in the group.
- For the final reading, divide the class in half. Half read the first two articles, the other half read the last article. The question is ‘How are these findings similar/different to your own opinions?’
These were the best examples I could find, but feel free to add other suggestions to the comments.
Geordie: Gary Hogg – Funny Geordie Monologue
Brummie / Black Country: Allan Ahlberg – Talk Us Through It, Charlotte
External Link: http://www.poetryarchive.org/childrensarchive/ singlePoem.do?poemId=86
West Country: The Wurzels – I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester
Scouse: Craig Charles interview
Tom Stalker is a boxer from Liverpool. In this link you can hear him talking about his preparations for London 2012.
Glaswegian: Regional Dialects Meme – Glasgow
Cockney: Michael Caine (being interviewed by Michael Parkinson)
Yorkshire: Michael Parkinson (interviewing Michael Caine)
Scottish (non-Glasgow): Scottish Voice-Operated Lift
Welsh: Tom Jones
Irish: Dara O’Briain – Controlling Children
The students went to the excellent British Library Sounds Familiar map, chose a person to listen to and made notes about their accent or dialect to discuss in class the following day.
Other links I shared on Edmodo were:
- my ‘Authentic Listening with British Accents‘ collection of videos on this blog
- this beautiful map showing the spread of accents in England and Wales
- a discussion of British Accents on television and what they are used to portray
- Why do we instinctively trust a Geordie accent? from the Independent
- the Sounds Familiar page about Geordie
I used these materials with an Advanced group, but I think they should be OK for Upper Intermediate upwards, and you could even adapt them for Intermediate.
*In case you’re interested, I grew up in Wolverhampton, but don’t have a Black Country accent. My family are from all over England, including Gloucester, Essex and the Wirral (near Liverpool). On my gap year I started to lose features of my Black Country accent, and this was consolidated when I went to Durham University. The last step was teaching in Paraguay, where I was teased (lightly!) for my pronunciation of words like ‘bus’ and ‘much’ – the only conscious change I’ve ever made to my accent. Now the Black Country features come and go. You can hear me talk here ;)