Translations and Proofreading‎ by Native Speakers

Phonetic system of the English language

Phonetic system of the English language

All non-native speakers of English try to work on their accents to sound as natural as possible. We usually choose to be more American or more British. Incidentally, there is no such thing as “American accent” or “British accent” as each area is in fact comprised of various regional phonetic systems. Therefore, we can learn to speak Standard English, so a dialect of the language as employed by the national norm.

The standards

Each language has a standard phonetic system which delineates the correct manner of pronouncing sounds, words and sentences. For Great Britain, the most well-known standard as Received Pronunciation (RP). According to some researchers, only a small percentage of native speakers employ that – majority speaks with an English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish accent (bearing in mind they are internally diverse). RP is most often taught to non-native speakers.

In the USA, we call it General American. The main difference is that the American pronunciation of words is much more rhotic than in RP – the/r/ sound is stronger and more audible before consonants and at the end of a syllable – but also flatter in pronouncing vowels. Many non-native speakers find it easier to pronounce words in the “American way”.

Less popular accents

Obviously, there are more standards than just RP and General American. Canada has three major dialects – Western/Central Canada, the Maritimes and Newfoundland. West Indies and the Bermuda area also has a very distinct way of speaking. The southern hemisphere developed its own major accents in Australia and New Zealand. We also have the South Atlantic and African pronunciation, India and South Asia.

You can check the pronunciation of each word in a pronunciation dictionary. It will show you the standard as well as the most popular local variations. In order to interpret it right, you have to know how to read the phonetic chart. The video below explains it in a comprehensive way:

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