Advance Your English & Stay Happy

Learning a language doesn't have to be boring. Ditch the grammar books, and out-of-date cassettes and make the most of fresh new language resources. Learning a language is undergoing a revolution fuelled by technology, and it couldn't have come sooner!

Free online educational resources can help ensure you have fun while you learn the less-than-fun aspects of the English subjunctive. In particular, the Accent Game is a great interactive tool that tests your ability to recognise English accents from every corner of the world. Bringing together English speakers with diverse accents, each of them speaks a line of poetry by Rudyard Kipling. You have to guess both the country the person is from, and the city they are from. Easy peasy ,right? No! Put it this way, I am a native English speaker and I only got about 50% of them right.

Despite being a tiny nation, the UK has a lot of accent variation. Indeed, for its size, it is one of the most concentrated regions in the world for accent diversity. Received Pronunciation, or 'BBC English,' as it is known colloquially is the accent most foreigners are probably familiar with, being the language spoken in many films. Think Mr D'Arcy in Pride and Prejudice. It's also the accent of many politicians: think Margaret Thatcher. The Royal Family is another good example.

Cockney English from the East End of London is well-known, but these days is probably more of a party piece than a living spoken language. Think Del Boy in TV series Only Fools and Horses. Then there is a myriad of regional British accents from outside of London, including Geordie, West Country English (including the much-imitated Cornish English), Brummie and Scottish, Welsh and Irish, to name a few. Suffice it to say, 'British English' is an umbrella term for a subtle and complex web of accents.

But accent variation is not limited to the UK. There is also a Spanish version of the Accent Game, for any keen Spanish speakers or learners out there. Spanish of course, like English, is spoken in many countries worldwide, so you can see whether you are able to distinguish between Puerto Rican Spanish and 'peninsular Spanish' (Spanish from Spain, known as Castellano), for instance.

In fact, there are 21 Spanish-speaking countries in the world, and therefore 21 different accents to get a handle on. Within just South America, accents vary significantly. Colombian Spanish is said to be one of the 'easiest' accents (by which, people mean it sounds most like Castellano); whereas Argentine Spanish is generally considered pretty difficult, especially the Porteño accent from Buenos Aires. Porteño Spanish is characterized by Italian-like pronunciation, and slang which people sometimes refer to as 'urban poetry.'

About the writer

Sophie Davies is Managing Editor at Language Trainers.


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