September 24, 2012

How to Speak English Like a Londoner

Speak English like a Londoner

Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

Today’s podcast is a little bit different because I get to be the student.

My friend, Tom, came over to give me some tips on how to speak English like a Londoner. I do some very bad London accents, so hopefully you’ll get some laughs out of it as well as learn a few things.

In our conversation, we discovered several unique characteristics of two main accents in London. We also talk about terrible American attempts of sounding like a Londoner in movies. So if you actually study English in London after following these tips, you might be able to pursue a career in the movies (dream big, right?!).

Go ahead and take a listen below.

*By the way, if you remember the infographic I shared about benefits of speaking a foreign language, the British accent was mentioned as one of the sexiest :)


How to Speak English Like a Londoner

With any conversation about accents of a specific place, you’re always going to have to limit it to what you think is ‘standard’.

So for our conversation on how to speak English like a Londoner, Tom and I focused on what’s called Cockney English and another that we just refer to as ‘Posh’ English. You will hear forms of these accents a lot when you go to London, so it will help you if you have an idea of what they sound like.

While it’s fun to learn different accents, it is probably best not to try to sound like you’re imitating someone. They might get the wrong idea. However, this podcast should be great in showing you the difference of two main accents in London, hopefully helping you understand people better when you go.

To pick up right where Tom breaks down a lot of the differences in the Cockney accent, listen to the ten seconds around 7:42.

Resources while you listen

We mention several things in the podcast, so here are some things that should help you.

The conversations we have where Tom tries to transform me into a real Londoner.

I’m having breakfast at a cafe near my hotel and ask a local for suggestions of things to do while in London.

Nate:  Hi, my name’s Nate.
Tom:  Hello, Nate. I’m Tom. Nice to meet you.
Nate:  Sorry to bother you, but do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Tom:  Not at all. How can I help?
Nate:  I’m gonna be in London for about about three weeks. There’s so much to do, I was wondering if you’d give me some suggestions.


Next, I go shopping in the Camden markets, I negotiate a price on a dress.

Tom: Hello mate. I’ve got a lovely thing for your misses here. It’s a lovely dress for twenty pound fifty.

Nate: Do me a favor. That’s a bit steep isn’t it?

Tom: What’s your offer?

Nate: Fifteen pound.

Tom: Fifteen pound? Fifteen pound?! For this, for this? I’ve worked my life to bring you this dress, and you’re telling me you want, you are robbing me. You’re thieving from me. Ok, this is my last offer. Eighteen pound for you.

Nate: Eighteen pound? Alright.

Tom: Alright? The job’s a good one.

We also talk about a few underground station names that are a little difficult to pronounce. They were: Gloucester, Leicester, Marylebone, and Euston.

Tom also gives us a few examples of bad British accents in movies:

Kevin Costner in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins
Don Cheadle in Ocean’s Eleven

For a bigger list of terrible British accents in movies, take a look here.

I had a good time making this podcast, and I hope you understand more about how to speak English like a Londoner. If you enjoyed it, please share with your friends or leave a comment down below!

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