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Accent Familiarization

VBC T4/M16 Kausar Abdullah

May 2007

Accent familiarization
Everyone speaks a language with an accent. A particular accent essentially reflects a person's linguistic background and there are noticeable differences. Virtusas head office is in the US and has a clientele spread across the US. The case is similar with our office and clients in the UK. This means there will be Virtusan interaction with a wide range of accents. This module will assist you in familiarizing yourself with these different accents. The sound clips enable you to get an idea of the differences between the American and the British accents - start sharpening your hearing skills. TIP - Every time you say something to someone and they look blankly back at you, know that both of you are about to have a language learning experience!

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Accent familiarization
The main differences in English Standard and Variant language are: 1. Pronunciation of words 2. Vocabulary usage + Spelling 3. Stress patterns 4. Intonation 5. Idiomatic speech

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Main differences
1. Pronunciation of Words This part will help you understand a few of the differences between pronunciation in the US and UK accents

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United States
The different dialects cannot be simply divided into the Northern American and the Southern American accents There's also a New Jersey (or should I say "Noo Joisey") accent There's also a New England accent, a Californian accent, the Southern drawl and lot more variations in between Here are a few examples:

Americans usually pronounce the letter "u" as oo, so "duty" (which in UK would
be "dyuty") comes out as "do-tee" and "tune" is " toon . Mind you, this isnt applicable to all "u" words.

often US of-tin UK - of-fin

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Dialects and accents vary not only between the countries in the United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) but also within areas of these individual countries.
Just some of the different British accents: Northern England Geordie; Lancashire; Yorkshire; Cumbrian, etc. The Midlands Birmingham; Leicestershire; Derbyshire, etc. Southern England Cockney; Estuary; Cornish; Somerset; Bristolian, etc. Wales South coast; Valleys; North coast, etc. + Welsh language Scotland West coast, East coast, Highland; Isles, etc. + Gaelic language Northern Ireland Eire// Southern Ireland + Irish Gaelic language

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Pronunciation United Kingdom

A few examples of UK pronunciation vs. US pronunciation

A word with "er/ar" at the end - "runner"

UK run-na US run-err (more emphasis on the er- sound)

The commonly used word schedule

UK shedyul US skejyul/skedyul

Yet another very different sound in the pronunciation of the prefix anti-
UK ant-ee US ant-eye

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2. Vocabulary usage + Spelling differences

This part will show you different words used for a common object and some slight variations in spellings

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Vocabulary usage
American (AE) apartment appetizer area code bathroom bell pepper Brit flat starter, hors d'oeuvre dialling code toilet red pepper, green pepper Briton British (BE) Notes A flat occupying more than one floor is called a maisonette in BE and a duplex in New York. AE uses townhouse to refer to a multi-level apartment. But "hors d'oeuvre" is rather posh. Telephone. The obsolescent BE phrase STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialling) code may be encountered. Especially in a domestic context. In BE a bathroom is a room in a private house or a hotel that contains a bath. Yellow ones are also available. A variety of capsicum. The word "Brit" is rapidly coming into popular usage everywhere but Britain! The correct adjectives for things from Scotland are: "Scottish" for most things, "Scots" for the people and a sort of pine tree, and "Scotch" for the whisky. Telephone system. In India either 'busy' or 'engaged' is used for the same. Often just called a mobile" in BE and "cell" in AE. Used to remove marks made by pencils.

busy signal cell phone, cellular phone eraser faucet gas high school

engaged tone mobile phone rubber tap petrol secondary school

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Vocabulary usage
American (AE) hood line mail movies number sign outlet pants private school public school rain check rsum sidewalk soccer stop lights stove washroom British (BE) bonnet queue post films hash mark socket trousers public school state school no equivalent car Group of people waiting in an orderly fashion. AE "waiting in line" is equivalent to BE "queueing". The productions themselves. In BE you go to the cinema; the theatre (UK spelling) is for plays. US theater. On the computer keyboard and telephones. Power points. A ticket for re-admission at a later date. Also used to indicate "Can we do it later?" Notes

curriculum vitae (CV) AE pronounced as -re/za/maypavement or footpath football traffic lights cooker, oven toilet Do not confuse with American football. AE pronounced as -st[ou]ve

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Spelling differences
Here are some words with different spellings
American aluminum boro center curb license program British aluminium borough centre kerb licence programme Notes AE pronunciation eloominum BE pronunciation - aleminiyum "boro" is informal and is sometimes seen in British road markings. In Scotland the word is "burgh" but it is pronounced "burr-ah" NOT "berg, e.g. Edinburgh = E-din-burr-ah Edge of roadway or pavement. To "curb" in the sense of "restrain" is used in British and American English. British usage is license for the verb and licence for the noun British usage is "program" for computers and "programme" for television or radio.

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3. Stress Patterns
This part will explain the two types of Stress Patterns Stress in a Word and Stress in a Sentence. Relax, as this has nothing to do with the stress in life!

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Stress Patterns
Stress in a Word is also called Syllable Stress. A syllable is a word or part of a word and always contains a vowel sound. Most syllables have consonants associated with the vowel. The stressed syllable in a word is usually given more emphasis with your voice, i.e. a higher pitch, e.g. I am HA-ppy today! You raise your pitch upwards on the 1st syllable. This helps you add expression in your speech it eliminates a monotonous tone. Applying stress on the appropriate syllable also helps the listener understand the meaning of the word/s.

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Examples of Stress Patterns in a Word

Noun Verb ri- CORD cn- TENT eb- JECT Word record content object

RE-cord CON-tent OB-ject

1st syllable is stressed in nouns

2nd syllable is stressed in verbs

Do you still have the Elvis records? (noun) I have to record tonights show. (verb) I was not very content (v) with the books contents. (n) The lawyer objected (v) to the object (n) used for murder.

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Stress Patterns in a Word

Base Word Word + suffix

Syllables in bold have to be stressed

Syllables in bold have to be stressed

de/mo/crat e/lec/tric a/vai/la/ble in/form mil/lion pro/duct

de/mo/cra/cy e/lec/tri/ci/ty a/vai/la/bi/li/ty in/for/ma/tion mil/lion/aire pro/duc/tion

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Stress Patterns in a Word

Here a few examples of words that have different syllable stress in the US and UK

America lab/ra/to/ry

British la/bo/ra/tory - the last syllable is pronounced as trih man/da/tory a/lu/mi/ni/um ad/dress (noun) ga/rage ga-rij

man/da/to/ry a/lu/mi/num ad/dress (noun) ga/rage ge-raaj

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Stress Patterns in a Sentence

When you speak English, the words you stress can change the underlying meaning of a sentence. Let's take a look at the following sentence:

I dont think he should get that job

Stressing on I means: Somebody else thinks he should get the job Stressing on should means: In my opinion it's wrong that he's going to get that job In this way, stressing on each word has a different meaning. Basically, stress words are considered CONTENT WORDS such as: Nouns / verbs / Adjectives / Adverbs Non-stressed words are considered FUNCTION WORDS such as: Determiners / Auxiliary verbs / Prepositions /Conjunctions / Pronouns

TIP - Your true meaning can only be conveyed when you put the stress on the correct word

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4. Intonation
Intonation is the tone of voice. Tone is the pitch variation in your voice that serves to distinguish words & their meanings In this part you will learn the importance of Intonation in your speech

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English has a number of intonation patterns which add meanings to the utterance: in a statement, question, surprise, disbelief, sarcasm, teasing
An important feature of English intonation is the pitch at the end of a sentence

Examples: the arrow indicates the pitch

1. You were late. (can indicate statement/sarcasm) You were late? (can indicate question/surprise/disbelief) 2. We will complete it in 10 days. (indicates assurance) Now imagine the same sentence with a tone. Try it. It would completely reverse the tone from assurance to more like, Are you sure we will complete it in 10 days?!

TIP when you ask a question, along with your grammatically correct question structure, remember to raise your pitch at the end.
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5. Idiomatic Speech
What are Idioms? Why are idioms used? How do we understand their meanings? Do we have to use them in our speech? This part will answer these questions for you

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Idiomatic Speech
Idiom use acts as a kind of shorthand in cultures. The phrases are based on connections that local people understand because they share the experiences on which idioms are based. Similarly, cultural traditions, citizens habits, geographical features, racial idiosyncrasies, the cuisine and even weather conditions all of these provide common sharing within a countrys regions. To be able to understand regional idiomatic speech, one must be aware of all of the above, so it is extremely difficult to pick up quickly. Try to pick some of them up, slowly! These links will help you understand some idiom meanings by showing usage examples: (US) (UK)


Please do not use these in your regular speech (specially the region specific ones). If you use them incorrectly, the meaning might just turn out to be nonsense!

TIP Stick to your standard English thats what this is all about!
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Quick Quiz
You might want to re-read this module, ensuring you have memorized anything new to you. Next, complete the quiz (available on your local VBC server). If you reach 60% or above in the test, congratulations have passed this T4 module! you

If you do not achieve 60%, you need further help and will be guided to the VBC team for assistance.

Please feel free to contact your local VBC staff via

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