10 British English Pronunciation Tips

Have you ever wished you could pronounce English in a British way? Well, there are lots of accents in Britain, this article highlights the top 10 tips to speak with a ‘neutral’ GB accent, sometimes known as ‘RP’ or ‘BBC’:

1.  Silent ‘r’

Only say an ‘r’ if is followed by a vowel sound. So in the words ‘bird’, ‘four’ and ‘mother’ the ‘r’ is completely silent!

SILENT ‘r’: bird  four  mother

2. ‘th’

The tongue needs to go between (or behind) the teeth and air needs to flow smoothly. There are two ‘th’ sounds: /θ/ in ‘thought’ and /ð/ in ‘there’

/θ/: thought theatre bath three thanks

/ð/: the those father Southern bathe

3. Weak Vowel /ə/

What sound do ‘about’ ‘manner’ ‘council’ ‘author’ and ‘column’ have in common? The weak vowel schwa – listen carefully, it is the same in each word and is spelt with ‘a, e, i, o & u’. It’s the most common vowel in English (about one in three):

/ə/: about manner council author column

Pronunciation Studio run a 90 minute ‘Schwa Class’ in Central London 4 times a week – it’s free to join!

4. Aspiration

The sounds /p,t,k/ are normally aspirated in English – it’s when you really push the air out almost as if spitting, it’s so English!

Pass the pepper quickly Karen, there’s no time to talk.

5. 11 Vowel Positions

English pronunciation contains 11 vowel sound positions – each using a unique position of the jaw, lips & tongue:

/ɪ/ bit /i:/ beat /e/ bet /æ/ bat /ʌ/ but /ɜ:/ burp /ɑ:/ bark /u:/ boot /ʊ/ book /ɔ:/ bought /bɒt/ bot

6. Double Vowel /əʊ/

The hardest of all English vowel sounds, it’s in so many common words like ‘no’ and ‘go’. The trick is to start in a relaxed position and then open the mouth and move to a rounded position.

/əʊ/: No, I don’t know if I’ll go to the show tomorrow.

7. Glottal Stop /ʔ/

English speakers often replace a ’t’ sound with a glottal stop /ʔ/, like in the word ‘partner’. In general British this only happens before another consonant, but in some accents including Cockney, it happens before a vowel sound too:

GB accent: partner Batman hatstand catnap

Cockney accent: water hitting Twitter fittest

8. Fall-rise Intonation

The English are famous for being reserved and polite – so how do they manage to say one thing and mean another? Often by using a fall-rising intonation (↘↗) pattern on a statement. The real meaning of these sentences is implied:

I ↘↗like it    He’s a good ↘↗teacher   They’re ↘↗interesting.

9. Names

English sentences always have a main stress – normally the last important word. So in names you always stress the last part, except if the name is STREET, then you stress the first… confusing!

“Oxford Circus”  “Trafalgar Square”    “King’s Road”   “Baker Street”

10. Joining

Words are joined in spoken English – sometimes by adding a sounds, sometimes by removing a sound, others by moving a sound, and sometimes by changing the sound:

go_away   China_and_India    Fast_car     Park_it