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Great IELTS Listening Resources for British English

Did you know that there are over 50 accent types in the British Isles? And within each of those accent types there are hundreds of distinctive variations? In many places, local people can hear the difference between the pronunciation and vocabulary of towns just 5-10 miles apart. In London alone, there are the three distinctive accents of North London, South London and Cockney (East London), which are easily distinguishable. That’s a lot of accents for a small set of countries, which comprises England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, that together are less than a half the size of the US state of Texas!  But what does this have to do with IELTS? 

Well, IELTS is an international test, so it is likely that you will come across a range of these accents during your examination and, for example, in the Listening test you will only get to hear the audio once. Being unfamiliar with an accent can get in the way of you confidently picking up every detail. While there will not be any extreme accents, you should at least be familiar with a range of the ‘main’ British accents. This post has some great IELTS Listening Resources to help you understand British accents.

I am a native English speaker; I grew up in America and have lived in London, England for 18 years, and sometimes even I still can’t understand some of these dialects when they are spoken to me! I’m not trying to scare you here, but rather I want stress that it is important to listen to a variety of English accents to prepare you fully for the exam.

Below is a list of some of the main British English accents with sample speeches from each. Your goal should be to get comfortable with each accent so that you aren’t surprised or distracted when you hear it in the IELTS test:

 

Standard English Accent (Known as Received Pronunciation)

This is a non-regional accent that originally derives from London English. This is the British Accent you will be most familiar with.  Its the one the BBC News presenters speak.  Emerging from the 18th and 19th Century aristocracy, it is considered the ‘gold standard’ of British accents.

Speech Samples:

 

Scottish English Accent

In general, this covers the accent of individuals from the country of Scotland. Still there are great variations between the more softer more upperclass Edinburgh accent as compared to the thicker accent of Glasgow, where individuals often cut off their words:

Speech Samples:

 

Welsh English

This refers to the accents and dialects spoken in the country of Wales, which is often sing songy and breathy. The speech of this region is heavily influenced by the Welsh language.

Speech Samples:

 

Northern Irish English:

This is often a very difficult accent to understand, even for a native English speaker like me.  Northern Irish accents tend to list upward at the end of almost every phrase, making most sentences sound like questions. A challenging accent to understand in my opinion!

Speech Samples:

Hopefully that gives you a good base introduction to some of the main British accents. If you want to listen to more, I’d recommend watching some of the documentaries on BBC Radio. This is a good source for listening to a variety of British Accents discussing academic topics. Remember, choose to listen to a topic that interests you, as you are much more likely to listen to it all the way through!

 
 
 

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