A Tour of British Accents.

A tour of the British Isles in accents: “Professional accent and dialect coach Andrew Jack seamlessly switches between the various accents that are scattered across the UK, demonstrating the subtle distinctions between different varieties of English.” My UK readers will have to tell me how accurate it is, but it’s pretty damn impressive, as well as a lot of fun to listen to and watch. (Thanks, John!)


  1. It’s beautifully executed. I suppose it’s predictable that the only one I don’t think much of is the one I know best, Dublin. It doesn’t even sound generically southern Irish to my ears. If anything it seems to teeter towards Scouse. But it’s a particularly short sample, maybe he’d get into his stride with a longer utterance. Here’s middle-class Dublin for comparison: Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vry1corExlw. Working class: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEO_t4BdDfU

  2. His welsh accents don’t sound very Welsh to my ears. Probably because he’s using English patterns of stress and intonation in what he’s saying.
    He also misses out the midlands / black country accent (spoken in the area around Birmingham and Wolverhampton) entirely.

  3. I’ve seen scepticism from linguists in my Twitter feed, for example in this exchange.

  4. Damn linguists, never satisfied!

  5. Well, as a non-linguist I wasn’t too impressed by the Dublin accent(s), or the Northern Irish one. But as Breffni said, the samples aren’t long enough to assess properly. It’s an interesting, entertaining video, but only broadly instructive.

    On a related note, I saw a standup comedy show last year by Tony Law, who did at least four regional Irish accents, including Galway’s, each of them surprisingly accurate (and deployed in the delivery of good jokes). That was impressive.

  6. It’s clear from the comments that “he gets everything right except my accent”, and this is really what a dialect coach is supposed to do: produce an accent that will sound convincing/appropriate to outsiders, not to native speakers. Stage Oirish is the ultimate example of this.

  7. On that note, John, this report on the perceived authenticity of Irish (and other) accents is interesting, if a bit dispiriting.

  8. Stan: I was tempted to reply to the actress who was told her Dublin accent was insufficiently Irish, “Sure, everybody knows Dublin and Ireland are two different countries.”[*] But on the whole I thought it would be misunderstood there, so I’m posting it here.

    Seriously, I do think that it’s legitimate to ask actors to heighten their accents, even native ones. It’s not enough to be Irish to play an Irish person: you have to be instantly, obviously, beyond-all-doubt-by-the-international-audience Irish.

    [*] That comma after “Sure”, by the way, is essential to maintaining my American identity.

  9. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I thought he did a pretty good job, even with places where I’ve lived, like Devon. I agree that his Welsh didn’t sound very Welsh, and I’m surprised that he didn’t include Birmingham and the Black Country (said to be quite different from one another, though they sound much the same to me), or Geordie. I speak RP myself, and I’m pretty hopeless at imitating accents, except perhaps Birmingham. My grandson’s name is Andrew Jack, but he’s only seven so it isn’t him.

  10. Yeah, what everyone said, esp. John C.
    In the snippets available, and with the fade-in/fade-out requirement they are pretty identifiable.
    Having had a Somerset father-in-law and having spent many really enjoyable hours in Somerset pubs just eavesdropping (those days are over), I found the West Country least convincing. Well, maybe the cockney …

  11. I agree with Athel. He did a pretty good job, but he eases into it. The Yorkshire one starts all wrong but then it’s perfect. I too wondered why there wasn’t a Geordie. He can’t quite do the different East Anglian accents; Cambridgeshire isn’t nearly as broad as Norfolk, and Suffolk’s in the middle. Nobody’s demolished his Scottish ones yet. I expect it’s only a matter of time. Nothing wrong with the Cockney or RP (as if anyone cares about my accent).

  12. “A Tour of British and Irish accents”, please.

  13. I spotted a few problems:
    – Liverpool: His schwa in “mixture” is too central (like an RP schwa). Real Scousers use a very raised schwa with the quality of /ɛ/
    – Northern Ireland (my accent): He pronounces “Northern” non-rhotically (probably due to contamination from his own English accent)
    – Dublin: His LOT vowel in “quality” is too rounded (again, like an English accent). He pronounces it [‘kwɒlɪti] but it should be [‘kwɑlɪti]
    – Lowland Scotland: His pronounces “glottal” with a clear L, even though the following word begins with a consonant. Highlanders use a clear L but lowlanders use a very dark L

    It’s still quite good though.

    What I can’t understand is why he uses meaningless terms like “flexible and fluid” (Lancashire) or “breathy” (North Wales) to describe the various accents. He obviously understands that the impression of a regional accent is created by the formation of the vowels and the intonation rather than by any of abstract impressions like breathiness or flexibility.

  14. John Emerson says

    I knew that this would be a tough audience.

    From my ignorant point of view it seems that he muffled or blandified the differences. I’ve heard much more extreme versions of several of those dialects, ithout necessarily knowing what they were. Though of course, many were from Monty Python….

  15. Monty Python isn’t necessarily wrong. John Cleese came from Weston-Super-Mare, so he would have been good at some kind of west-country accent, and Michael Palin, Eric Idle and the one who writes books about medieval history would have been able to do Yorkshire miners fairly authentically because that’s where they were from (I think). I noticed that John Cleese nowadays has a weird mid-Atlantic accent, presumably from having lived in California.

  16. Pete: “–Northern Ireland (my accent): He pronounces “Northern” non-rhotically (probably due to contamination from his own English accent)”

    I noticed that too and I’m American. Maybe that’s because my accent is rhotic too.

  17. AJP. Well, yes. But when comic actors do accents, they often caricature them, partly so the audience can really get the difference, and partly because it’s just funnier that way. In writing, the reverse is usually true: the details of an accent or even a dialect are scaled down so the naive reader doesn’t get lost. In Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, David Balfour says “I am neither of his people [the Stewarts] nor yours [the Campbells], but an honest subject of King George, owing no man and fearing no man.” That’s Scottish Standard English at most. But in the Scots graphic-novel version, where the reader is presumed to understand the language, he says, “I am nae aucht of James’s folk or o yours. I am a leal subject o King George, aucht a nae man and feart o nane.”

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