Elwood 5566

Accents Misunderstood

Posted in esl by 노강호 on June 24, 2012

As an Englishmen, I get pissed off at the fact so many Koreans think there are only two English accents; namely British and American. And I get even more pissed off by the fact so many place a higher value on American English. But this is hardly surprising as I’ve probably spoken to five Americans in my life who told me they didn’t have accents and perhaps because America has had such a profound impact on the peninsula, Koreans mistakenly believe there is only one American accent – if an accent at all!  How ignorant do you have to be not just of the nature of your own country, but the world beyond, especially with TV and movies, to be unaware that you have an accent! I don’t place too much faith in British education but British people are very aware of their accents not least because for centuries it has been a mark of social class.

Rab C Nesbitt and his hard Glaswegian accent…

I know of at least one English hagkwon franchise in Korea that insists its teachers teach with an American accent and I wonder which accent they prefer you to use. One internet source, the validity of which I have no idea, claims American accents can basically be categorised as follows:

The West
California English
Utah English
Pacific Northwest English

Southern American English
Deep South
Upper South
New Orleans
Acadiana: Cajun French
Central and South Florida

St. Louis and vicinity
The Inland North
Northern Cities Vowel shift
North Central

Eastern Dialects:
Eastern New England
New Yorker

Mid-Atlantic Region Dialects:
Northeastern Pennsylvania
Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley
Pittsburgh English
Buffalo New York English

And then there is General American, which is what most Media Broadcasters use.

As for English accents (not including Scotland, Ireland and Wales), there are probably just as many under the main divisions, initially by region, eg. South, North, West and East and then by town or counties, including: Oxford English, Queen’s English, Cockney, Bristol and west country, Lancaster, Yorkshire, Tyne, Scouse, Mancunian, Brummie, Geordie, Essex and Cornwall, etc. The interesting point about English-English accents is that they often have their own names, ‘Brummie’ for example, is the accent associated with Birmingham. Perhaps this highlights a greater awareness of accents among English (British) people and certainly English people often rank accents according to an unwritten social hierarchy. And let’s not forget the wonderful BBC English accent that was pertinent only to TV and which reigned during my childhood.

Notice how the American boy doesn’t know he has an accent…

If you watch British television, and it is probably the same in every other English speaking country, exposure to other major accents has developed a familiarity with foreign accents and viewers are as comfortable watching a show with an American accent as they are New Zealand, South African or Australian. Indeed, in Britain, some people would actually be more at ease watching something in Australian than from the other end of their own country.


With increasing globalization it becomes even more necessary to interact with major and even regional accents and insisting teachers speak only with ‘an American’ accent is doing students a disservice. Every time I ask a Korean what their hobby is, they pull a dumbfounded face at which point I rescue them by saying, ‘habby.’ Rather than running from accents, students should be exposed to them and would very quickly learn the differences are actually fairly small.

As for the amusing video…

This post was actually prompted by the above video which I first saw on Wet Casements

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©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
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