Introducing British (and Irish) accents

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.

In Class

  • 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?’

The Videos

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:

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:

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 😉

18 thoughts on “Introducing British (and Irish) accents

  1. This is brilliant! Unfortunately, I seem to have found myself at another textbook obsessed school! Well, it’s “extremely academic” = following a strict syllabus without much room to deviate! Ah well. Come October, I WILL be free :-p

    Loving your work as ever!

    Don’t forget we must meet up in September when I’m done here! 🙂

    Lizzie x


  2. Hi Sandy.

    Lots of work for you, as well as for your students. You know what I like about these clips? They’re content-rich, they’re about something interesting. You could just have chosen some out-of-work actor modelling something for an EFL publisher, but instead we’ve got Red Dwarf and Tom Jones on worker motivation, and the Glasgow rantist – he is right about arthropods, BTW.

    Will make possible exception for the Wurzels, though. 😉

    Good for you.

    PS Look out for Limmy’s Show on YouTube for more Glaswegian surrealism

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Alan,
      I’ve just added your suggestion to the list of Authentic Listening videos. That’s what I love about YouTube – the fact that these are real people speaking ‘real’ English. Part of the aim was also to show students different aspects of British culture, as well as showcasing the accents. Hopefully it will introduce them to things that they’ve never heard of before.
      It also reflects my cultural interests up to a point 😉 (And The Wurzels are there because they’re just funny – try saying ‘combine harvester’ to a Brit and see what they reply!) 😉


  3. Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for the lesson. I just wanted to draw your attention to one small thing: your plan asks students to categorise UK accents, and as one of the examples you suggest Dara O’Briain, who in fact is from the Republic of Ireland, which is not in the UK.

    Just so you know.


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