How can I learn to speak with appropriate English accents when reading books aloud? For example, are there simple rules for each accent?

My question is general question, but my application is specific and requires only a good enough attempt; as of now (currently reading "the Secret Garden") my accents are all over the place and inconsistent from page to page.

closed as off topic by simchona, Alenanno, z7sg Ѫ, Mitch, Alain Pannetier Φ Aug 17 '11 at 14:31

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  • While there are certain rules that define each accent, I think these are fairly obvious and intuitive if you listen to someone with that accent talk for a few minutes. To train yourself to talk that way is a much harder task -- such a thing would usually require a vocal coach! – Jeremy Aug 17 '11 at 6:51

There is actually a book/CD set called Accents: A Manual for Actors that is a wealth of information on different accents, from native speaker regional accents to foreign accents. It does an amazing job of explaining how to physically produce those accents. It's geared towards native English speakers, but I see no reason it wouldn't be helpful to someone actively trying to lose a foreign accent.


summary: keep trying, keep listening.

I think this is actually a fairly interesting question, to which there is both a simple, and a complicated answer.

The complicated answer is that to fully understand how different accents work, you need to study linguistics, and phoenetics. Many rules for speaking with a certain accent can depend on relatively simple things like changing the pronunciation of basic vowel or consonant sounds. For example water, when pronounced with a New Zealand accent sounds more like warder, and converting "t" to "d" can be effective at approximating this accent for many words.

However relatively complex things like the structure of individual syllables in the words you are pronouncing can also have an effect. For example with a New Zealand accent, neither of the "t" sounds in trait would be converted to a "d". The first "t" would be pronounced as in British English, and the second "t" would be cut off so it would sound something like trai' when pronounced alone.

Also changes depend not only on the accent you are trying to approximate but also on differing accepted pronunciations of specific words, such as the difference between American and British pronunciations of tomato, which can be said as "tom-aa-to" or "tom-ay-to", and is mostly specific to this word.

The simple answer is that the best way to learn to use different accents is to try, while listening to yourself. If you can hear that you are pronouncing words inconsistently, then you are already half-way to learning to change your accent consistently :). Keep trying to read in different accents out loud, try recording yourself and playing it back, and compare with native accents whenever possible.

As Jeremy and esperisto say, the most important thing is to gain an intuitive understanding of what particular accents sound like when spoken natively. And as it happens, people are pretty good at this. When moving to another country, I've found it's actually pretty hard to stop your own accent from changing to imitate the locals.


You need input rather than output, so listen is important. If you want to speak with British accent, you should listen some audio books in British accent, eg. Shakespeare's Sonnet, and other British author's works.

  • 2
    There is no one British accent. – simchona Aug 17 '11 at 8:13

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