How to Speak With a Proper British Accent, According to a Dialect Coach

Maggie Smith stars in Downton Abbey.
Maggie Smith stars in Downton Abbey.
Masterpiece

For anyone looking to sound more Downton Abbey than Gossip Girl (and who rues the day when Americans lost their British accents), Patricia Fletcher has a few pointers for you.

Fletcher, a dialect coach and author of Classically Speaking: Dialect for Actors, spoke with Business Insider about the methods behind mastering a proper British accent, which largely comes down to rhythm.

According to Fletcher, those who speak in neutral American—which is traditionally accepted to mean those “General American” accents heard in the Midwest or West or on news broadcasts—tend to sit on E sounds whereas our British counterparts are more terse. A word such as really, for example, is typically pronounced by Americans as "reel-lee," while the word sounds much more succinct when coming from a Brit: "real-ly."

There's also the matter of how much speakers are willing to "reveal," according to Fletcher. When Americans enunciate their A-E-I-O-Us, their lips are a bit more lax and expressive. Comparatively, speakers across the pond are a bit more reserved with their mouth movements. "Think of our phrase, that the British have a 'stiff upper lip,'" says Fletcher. "[Americans] reveal our emotions a lot through those vowel sounds."

Keep in mind, however, that the British accent Fletcher is talking about is the more traditional accent you hear in most movies and TV shows. But there are plenty of other regional British accents you can attempt to replicate.

The famously recognized cockney accent—most impressively pulled off by Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady and not-so-impressively by others—is typically heard resounding through the streets of East London; head to Liverpool, and you’ll hear a bit of "Scouse," or the accent that was birthed from generations of Welsh and Irish settling in the area (if you really want to get a taste of a Scouse accent, listen to The Beatles).

No matter which accent you’re trying to nail, Fletcher advises to try and avoid letting your native intonations sneak in. You can watch the full video here, and then try out your own best imitation of Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess of Grantham.

This $49 Video Game Design Course Will Teach You Everything From Coding to Digital Art Skills

EvgeniyShkolenko/iStock via Getty Images
EvgeniyShkolenko/iStock via Getty Images

If you spend the bulk of your free time playing video games and want to elevate your hobby into a career, you can take advantage of the School of Game Design’s lifetime membership, which is currently on sale for just $49. You can jump into your education as a beginner, or at any other skill level, to learn what you need to know about game development, design, coding, and artistry skills.

Gaming is a competitive industry, and understanding just programming or just artistry isn’t enough to land a job. The School of Game Design’s lifetime membership is set up to educate you in both fields so your resume and work can stand out.

The lifetime membership that’s currently discounted is intended to allow you to learn at your own pace so you don’t burn out, which would be pretty difficult to do because the lessons have you building advanced games in just your first few hours of learning. The remote classes will train you with step-by-step, hands-on projects that more than 50,000 other students around the world can vouch for.

Once you’ve nailed the basics, the lifetime membership provides unlimited access to thousands of dollars' worth of royalty-free game art and textures to use in your 2D or 3D designs. Support from instructors and professionals with over 16 years of game industry experience will guide you from start to finish, where you’ll be equipped to land a job doing something you truly love.

Earn money doing what you love with an education from the School of Game Design’s lifetime membership, currently discounted at $49.

 

School of Game Design: Lifetime Membership - $49

See Deal



At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

What’s the Difference Between a Tiara and a Crown?

Jonathan Brady-WPA Pool/Getty Images
Jonathan Brady-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Fancy headgear of any kind is often a dead giveaway that the wearer is of some importance, be it the bride-to-be at a bachelorette party or the Queen of England herself. But while you might refer to those ornate accessories as crowns or tiaras without giving too much thought to which term is most accurate, there are specific differences between the two accessories.

One way to distinguish a crown from a tiara is by looking at who’s wearing it. Traditionally, only sovereigns don crowns, while other members of the royal family and nobility occasionally wear coronets, which are essentially smaller, less elaborate crowns. You don’t have to be royal to wear a tiara, but you do have to be a bride or a married woman (at least if you’re following tradition).

“The tiara has its roots in classical antiquity and was seen as an emblem of the loss of innocence to the crowning of love,” Geoffrey Munn, jewelry expert and author of Tiaras: A History of Splendour, told Town & Country.

According to Insider, there is one exception to this rule: If you’re born a princess, you can wear a tiara when you’re still single. Queen Elizabeth II’s daughter, Princess Anne, for example, wore her mother’s Cartier Halo  tiara during a trip to New Zealand in 1970, a few years before she was married. Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, who didn’t hail from royalty, both wore tiaras for the first time on their wedding days.

The designs for tiaras and crowns differ, too. As Jewelry Shopping Guide explains, a crown is always a full circle, while a tiara is sometimes only semi-circular. Crowns are also usually larger—and taller—than tiaras. And though there aren’t any specific rules about what gems or materials crowns and tiaras should include, crowns are often more colorful and ostentatious than tiaras. Britain’s Imperial State Crown, for instance, includes sapphires, rubies, emeralds, purple velvet, and more.

However, since there isn’t a headdress enforcement squad in Britain or anywhere else (at least not one that we know of), there’s no reason you can’t sport a crown during your next Zoom happy hour, royal or not.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.