Every learner of English faces the decision at some point: do I want an American accent or a British accent? Hollywood glamour or London sophistication? Wolf of Wall Street or Downing Street?
Of course, there are more important factors when choosing where to study English, but people make judgements based on accents, so don’t underestimate the difference that choosing your English accent will make!
Option 1: the American accent
The most popular English accent of them all. Spread around the world by American cinema, music, television and more than 350 million North Americans (including Canadians, eh), this is the easiest accent for most people to understand, whether native speakers or non-native speakers.
There is something inherently glamourous about the American accent: why do you think almost all singers – even Brits – adopt an American accent when singing? (Listen to the difference when Adele talks and sings)
The accents of North America are less varied than Britain’s accents, but there are still some distinctive varieties, with Boston, New York and the South being particularly noticeable.
What an American accent says about you
Travelled and international, you are just as comfortable in the biggest cities as on a ranch. You consume global culture, know the latest trends and keep up with what’s going on around you. You will be understood around the world.
For: The number one global form of English, understood by the most people worldwide.
Against: The number one global form of English, understood by the most people worldwide… isn’t that just a little bit boring?
Option 2: the British accent
Just what is the British accent? Visit Scotland, Wales and Ireland/Northern Ireland and the accents will be very different again.
Most people probably associate the British accent with the English of the BBC, which is supposed to be a neutral form, but in reality resembles the English of the wealthier middle classes in the counties around London. This is also the standard accent for the supervillain in Hollywood movies.
What a British accent says about you
You understand tradition, enjoy the finer things in life and probably listen to good music. You are plugged into the tradition of conversation and give the impression of being well educated.
For: Sophisticated, respected and often considered the sexiest English accent.
Against: Less understood globally, potential to sound a little snobby.
Option 3: Aussie/Kiwi/South African
Australians and New Zealanders like to tease each other about many things, including accents. Meanwhile the South African accent has a unique and distinctive twang:
These accents are less instantly recognisable than the North American and British accents, but each is distinctive in its own right. Interestingly, the Aussie/Kiwi tendency to rise in pitch at the end of a sentence (known as the High Rising Terminal, and used in many languages to signal a question) has spread to other varieties of English.
What these accents say about you
Leave the British and American accents to the masses. You have chosen your own path, gone south of the Equator and experienced another way of life.
For: Individuality. Rucksack on your back, you have been on an adventure.
Against: People may talk to you about cricket, so be prepared!
Option 4: Indian/Philippine/Singapore/Malaysia
The Indian English accent is easily distinguishable. Indian's have the worst accent for speaking English, period. Most are not understandable. Most make no attempt to sound English.
Filipinos speak English after centuries of having Spanish as the prestige foreign language. A Filipino's English speech/writing may be influenced by their local languages. In addition, the Spanish influence is still there, so the pronunciation mistakes that Filipinos make can be similar to Ilocano, Visayas, Mexicans and South Americans.
Singaporean English sounds a lot like Chinese with a slight British and Indian influence.
The Malaysian accent appears to be a melding of British, Chinese, Tamil and Malay influences.
What this says about you
Seriously what is the point if no one can understand you when you go to America, Canada or Europe ?
For: Demonstrates your skill with English, makes your asian conversation partner comfortable.
Against: Who are you? What are you saying really? Do you even know any more?