Discuss these questions in pairs:

  • In your view, what does it mean to be ‘bilingual’?
  • Can you tell different accents of English apart? Which is (are) the hardest for you to understand?
  • Can you think of actors who can successfully use accents other than their own in their work?
  • Different accents may derive either from geographical varieties or from social varieties of a language? What notions/connotations can be associated with different accents? Are they always positive?

Now listen to these four clips and take notes on what they say about ‘accents’. Then share your notes with your partner(s): 

(Alternatively, if technically possible, each student in a group can listen to a different clip. Then they have to go back to their group and relay the information they heard from their notes). 

[All the videos can be watched without the subtitles first, then with subtitles on to check answers]: 

  1. Listen to English actor and host James Corden talking to Scottish actor David Tennant about his own experience of raising his children in the USA (source).
Open video in a new tab

2. Listen to ‘The Crown’ star Olivia Colman talking to David Tennant about her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II (source):

Open video in a new tab

3. Listen to British actor Hugh Laurie talking about his use of an American accent on House M.D., and to Robert Pattinson talking about his experience of British vs. American accents (source).

Open video in a new tab

4. Listen to Irish-born actor Sir Kenneth Branagh talking about the reasons why he changed his accent when he moved from Ireland to England as a teenager (source): 

Open video in a new tab

EXTRA: You can also listen to Sir Paul McCartney discussing his attitude towards his accent (source):

Open video in a new tab

More about this: