9/28/11

Teaching 'British'


Well I got to do something really fun on Monday night, our High School play this year is a Sherlock Holmes skit and they nearly all have to speak with a British accent. So when I was asked to help the students get the accent, I was delighted to help out.

It's not easy trying to help someone sound British, especially when you don't really 'hear' your own accent. So I concentrated on the difference in vowel pronunciations, speaking slower, more clearly and enunciating every letter.

It was a real giggle for all of us, I took them in small groups and read through the lines with them.  I got them to watch my mouth closely as I spoke as apparently Brits do not open their mouths as wide as Americans when they speak and we repeated problem words until they improved.

At first they were typical self-conscious teenagers, but then we started to have fun and they relaxed and got better. It was amazing how speaking slower and saying the whole word clearly actually made them sound more British.

I felt most sorry for the young lad playing Jeeves.  He was the first one told he needed to spend time with me and I hated to tell him Jeeves was an iconic character who spoke very 'posh'. We persevered and he did improve but it was a real struggle for him.

I did have a success with one of the young girls though. Her teacher commented during the rehearsal afterards that she now really sounded British and was too timid to even try before my intervention.  Overall I think they all went away with an understanding of how to sound more British and there was definite improvement.

I also left them with the perfect warm-up word before they go on stage - Water, pronouned war-terr by Brits, rather than the American wadda.

I can't wait to see how they do in November.

21 comments:

Kathy G said...

They were lucky that you were there to help them!

George said...

It sounds as if both you and the students had a lot of fun with Sherlock Holmes.

Expat mum said...

It is funny when Americans try the British accent (as they are wont to do even when it's not welcome). They always end up sounding like a very bad Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. MInd you, my generic American accent is still appalling.

Gaelyn said...

That sounds like fun for all. Maybe they should watch some old Brit movies. Or have a "Talk like a Brit" day for practice. ;)

Daryl said...

here in NewYawk we say War-der

Pam said...

Ha, what a hoot. Even after all this time, I can't do a British accent. However, after a week in the West Country, I was getting the hang of "alriiighty then" ... John told me to stop because they would think I was taking the piss. (Quiz Night at the local...) And I've heard water as "wah-r".

Sherri said...

That is wonderful Sarah that you could help in their "British" hour of need! Good for you!!

Jo, a retired teacher said...

How fun for everyone. I've tried to use a British accent when reading certain things to students, but I'm sure I was terrible.

The cruise I was on in June had lots of guests from Great Britain and Australia. It was fun to try and distinguish which was which (wouldn't have been a problem for you I'm sure).

Brown English Muffin said...

This is sooooo true...I don't hear my accent at all.

Shammickite said...

I spent many fruitless and frustrating years saying WAWTERR to my 2 Canadian sons but they still say WADDA. Now I have a new generation of grandies to work on but I despair of any of them ever being able to speak the Queen's English proper like what I does.

Jill of All Trades said...

Oh my goodness what fun.

gigihawaii said...

haha!!! I enjoyed this post so much, Sarah. It reminded me of the war-terr story my mom relayed when she returned from London years ago. Nobody from Hawaii could understand what the waiter meant when he asked them if they wanted more war-terr...

Frostbite and Sunburn said...

Ha ha (pronounced haaaar haaaar) - it all sounds wonderful dahlink! You'll be beaming with pride come the show! Have fun.

Kay said...

This is really terrific! How wonderful that you could help them. I remember in the 60s when everybody was trying to sound British with all the Brit music groups in the U.S.

Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger said...

Hi, came across your blog today for the first time. I always take an interest in British expats abroad, as I am one myself (currently living in Malaysia).

I had to laugh at your post about teaching Americans how to speak British. "Water" is one of those really funny ones!

Duncan In Kuantan

karen said...

What a laugh! this really made me smile :)

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Gosh, that's wonderful. I just love your stories like these. You are a treasure in that small Oklahoma town. Cheers!~~Dee

Tina said...

Sounds like fun...best wishes to you in your work with the students.

A Brit in Tennessee said...

I had a giggle at this, it reminds me of the time I was chosen to help Charles Dickens great, great, grandson on stage explaining his accent in a presentation to our local play theatre , funny but he didn't have any problem understanding them :)
I hope your play goes well in November, I'm sure they have all been practicing...hoooow noooow brooown cooow !
Hope you are well...
~Jo

When We Dance said...

ooohhh i am so excited to see people speak with british accent...

i often watch The Tudors and amazed with the Royal English

Leah said...

Cute! I just came across your blog. I moved here from England when I was 10 so I am Americanized now with the accent and all. :) I look forward to reading your blog!