Accents and Activities
A private student of mine recently requested that we talk about accents. He saved me the trouble of searching for material to base our discussion on by sending me links to sources he found interesting. One of them included audio files of various Australian accents. This didn’t surprise me since that’s currently his country of residence. I love listening to varieties of English, so I enjoyed familiarizing myself with the files. I came up with discussion questions for my student, but almost automatically, I began to think of other possibilities the audio recordings lend themselves to for language learners in general.
Take a look at the audio illustrations that folks at Macquarie University have compiled. There are more than a dozen statements read aloud by various speakers. How can you make use of these files in the classroom? What ideas can you come up with? Here are a few that I thought of:
- Dictation. Classic exercise. Could be more effective if first done individually, and then in pairs after a second listening. One pair could volunteer to write their text on the board, and a third and final listening would follow to confirm their accuracy.
- Dictation and creative writing. Make the activity more meaningful by asking students to provide more context for one-line from the site. Personally, I’d love to write a mini story based on this one: “They noticed that the door of the hunting lodge stood ajar and they grabbed their guns in fear.” Two men from two different regions read that sentence. The first is fairly dramatic. I’d play both audio files, have the students write down what they hear, correct their work, and then ask them to work with a partner to add one line before and two or three lines after.
- Infer rhythmic patterns. Are you ready to teach a lesson on sentence stress? You could play a few audio samples like these, which are all one-liners. Play the clips, show the transcripts on the board, and then have students listen again to identify the stressed words. Guide them to make accurate conclusions about content words (e.g. nouns) and function words (e.g. articles).
I must thank my student for asking me to explore the links he sent. It brought to my attention yet another amazing resource that’s just a click away: audio recordings of accents in English. Here are some additional sites you might find useful:
- The Speech Accent Archive. I loved browsing via their map feature. I listened to my hometown dialect as and samples from several other places in the U.S. and Canada. The man from St. Louis, by the way, provides a nice model for thought groups.
- International Dialects of English Archives. Some recordings are rather lengthy, but you could use only an excerpt. Check out the clip recorded by a man from Martinique. Within the first two minutes or so, he tells a story about a woman who took a goose to the vet. You could transcribe the story partially, challenging students to complete it. Alternatively, they could simply listen, and in stages do both summarizing and predicting.
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