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Foolaholic's avatar

How can I make my British accent sound more believeable?

Asked by Foolaholic (5774 points ) November 9th, 2011

To clarify, this is not my spoken accent. This is the accent of a character in a piece I am currently writing for a class. She is my female protagonist, early twenties, born in Iceland but raised in England. I’m terrible at accents, so at this point I’ve been writing hers using some key word choice ( feck, proper, mate, ect.). Are there any goods tips or idioms that you think my improve what I have?

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14 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Accent and vocabulary are two separate issues. There is no one British accent; there are class, educational and regional norms.

Is your lady from Liverpool or Cornwall? Did she go to university or leave school at 16 to become a truckdriver or beautician?

Ringo Starr sounds very different from Ralph Fiennes.

SpatzieLover's avatar

My 6yr old does a perfect British accent. He watches a lot of BBC movies and prefers English Lit. Rent some flicks and practice.

Ayesha's avatar

Watch movies, and try to sound like them. Repeat they’re sentences out loud. Do this regularly with the time you have left.

XD's avatar

I just Googled this recently. I think there’s a series of vid tutorials on ehow.com.

Blueroses's avatar

If you want help with standard pronunciation (Queen’s English or posh) Here is a good free online resource from the BBC. This teaches the basics of an educated or theatrical accent.

The basic lessons teach you vowel and dipthong sounds and mouth position and you can build on your character’s individual accent from that base.

My actor friends swear by this online course. It isn’t free, but it does offer a free guide to accent study that can be emailed to you and you could choose to purchase a dialect course.

bongo's avatar

Are you saying English people sound like they say feck because all the English people I know say it with an open u sound? and I am English Where abouts in England are they from? There are some massive differences in pronunciation of words. If you want to hear a nice English accent watch some David Attenborough he has an amazing voice. Or alternatively just read a book set in England?

CWOTUS's avatar

Reread what @gailcalled wrote. She nailed it. It’s not just “where you’re from”. It’s also “how you were educated” and “where you’ve been” since then.

Brits can tell a lot about a fellow Brit just from hearing a few words. They instantly make reasonably accurate assumptions about class, wealth, status, education and origin just from hearing accents, speech patterns and vocabulary.

So you have to flesh out your character a bit and really know him before you think that just sprinkling a few words and dropping a few “aitches” will do it for you.

harple's avatar

If you can come back to us with answers to the questions @gailcalled raised, we should be able to help you with some colloquialisms and appropriate usage…

But @CWOTUS makes a hugely valid point about appropriate use to really make it work… Try us though, it’s an interesting project I’d love to help with if I can.

JLeslie's avatar

I am going to assume you don’t mean accent, but mean sayings and slang terms. Here is a long list of British slang. The words that first came to my mind are gobsmacked; brilliant; the use of the word “right” in the middle of sentences to affirm the speaker is on the right track with what they are saying; lovely; there are more but I am drawing a blank.

Kardamom's avatar

Figure out exactly what type of British accent your character has, then find an actress (or we can help you with that) who has the appropriate accent, then listen and repeat, listen and repeat. Also write out the sound differences phonetically how they sound to you.

I’m not sure which part of England this comes from, and I’ve heard it from Brits as well as Aussies, but here is a good example: In the U.S. we might say, “I don’t know.” Whereas with certain British and Aussie accents the phrase sounds like, “Uh die yunt nigh.”

Another example comes from my favorite Brit, Charles Shaughnessy (aka Maxwell Sheffield), as well as Daniel Ratcliffe (Harry Potter). In the U.S. we say the word “anything” but these two fine fellows pronounce the word as “enathin.”

So find out where your gal is from, find a British actress (even one from a documentary) who speaks the way your character would, then listen to and repeat phrases, over and over again. After you’ve done that for awhile, have your friends ask you random questions and try to reproduce the accent while you answer.

For some reason, I’ve always been able to imitate accents, much to the amusement of my friends and relatives. I do a great Bill Clinton as well a credible Liverpudlian accent.

Blueroses's avatar

@Kardamom Since you brought up “anything” as an example, it reminds me of another Brit Isles dialect I’ve noticed with people like the Supernanny and Gordon Ramsay. They’ll turn the sound into “ennyfink”. :-)

Kardamom's avatar

@Blueroses I love Jo Frost from the Supernanny! She’s got what I consider to be a more modern version of the Cockney accent.

There’s also a nifty pronunciation of the word “veterinarian” in the Yorkshire Dales that sounds like “Vitnery” (at least all of the farmers on All Creatures Great and Small pronounced it like that).

If the OP would like to check out some of these different female British accents, I’ve collected a few very different ones here.

Emma Thompson

Wendy Richard and Molly Sudgen

Judy Densch

Maggie Smith

Kate Winslet

Carey Mulligan

Emma Watson

Julie Andrews

Helen Mirren

Cate Blanchett

Queen Elizabeth (then still a princess) giving her first speech

Queen Elizabeth’s 21st Birthday Speech

Queen Elizabeth as an older adult

Vivien Leigh

Princess Diana

Patricia Routledge

Jane Duvitski (Jane) and Stephanie Cole (Diana) and others from Waiting for God

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Looks like you are looking for British expressions rather than “writing” an accent. This is for a written piece and not a spoken piece, right? Amazon has a book called “A Dictionary of British Slang” but you could probably do a Google search on British slang and get just as much information. Also, you will have to decide a locale in England for your character, because different locations have different expressions – just like here in the USA.

blueiiznh's avatar

Go live in the country.

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