Recently, there's been a question asked several times, which I would like to expand upon with you. That question was: Can I pronounce words correctly with an accent?

My short answer would be ‘yes, of course’!

You can stop here if you like and just enjoy the knowledge that you can carry on speaking in the same way you have always spoken. However, if you would like the long response with a bit more of an explanation, continue reading this article.

To add a bit more detail to my short response, let me start by saying: there is no one right way to speak English (despite what some people might say). I know school books regularly focus on one specific accent, in the past this was often Received Pronunciation, thankfully this is slowly starting to change and some variety is being introduced.

If we look at ‘native’ English, we have got American, Canadian, Australian and British accents, to name just the main ones. Within British, which I know in a bit more detail, we have got English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh. But even within the UK, there are not just 4 varieties of accent, there are, amazingly, over 37 different accents. I am sure there are different accents around different parts of America and Australia, although I could not tell you much about them. All of that is not even starting to think about Indian or Nigerian English and other world Englishes.

Do you still think there is one correct way to pronounce words?

The main thing when speaking English, in order to be understood, is that you are consistent with the way you pronounce certain vowel sounds and consonant sounds. To a certain extent, it does not really matter how you pronounce them, although I am sure there are some people who would disagree with that statement. However, as long as you always pronounce a word or a sound in the same way so that the people talking with you understand what you are saying, then it is not really a problem whether it is equivalent to the way someone else pronounces it.

As long as you can differentiate between the long and the short vowel sounds, or /b/ and /p/, in minimal pairs, for example, you will be okay

Let me give you an example using British English, because that is what I know best. In the south of England, where I come from originally. We use the pronunciation path /pa:θ/: I walk along the ‘path’. 

In the north of England, they pronounce the word path /pæθ/. It is a much shorter vowel sound, but they have path /pæθ/, bath /bæθ/ and laugh /læf/. These are all sounds that I would pronounce with a long /a:/ path /pa:θ/, bath /ba:θ/ and laugh /la:θ/. But because we are consistent with these variations of the vowel sound, and the fact that there are not any minimal pairs to confuse them with, it does not matter that it is different: we can still understand one another.

And this is the same for you, whatever form of English you speak, whether you speak with a British, American, or Australian accent, or with an Italian or Spanish accent, it really does not matter. As long as the people you are communicating with can understand you, and as long as you are consistent in your pronunciation of certain vowel sounds, that is the most important part.

Can you see that even with your accent, whatever accent you may have, you can still pronounce words correctly?

If you would like some help gaining confidence in your pronunciation, please get in touch, either via a direct message or arrange a call with me by clicking here.