The ins and outs of how to linguistically reproduce the sounds of native speakers is beyond me. This is why I do not and probably will not ever teach phonetics.
I also didn’t know what the funny symbols were in the dictionary next to all the words I had to look up as a child and student until I became an English teacher.
As an English teacher I am so thankful for YouTube and videos like the one above because otherwise I would still probably be lost on the subject of phonetics. I can confidently help students improve their pronunciation along with the rest of their English proficiency, but I do generally focus on the phonetic alphabet – but I also do not hide it from my students either. I use videos like the one above to help better explain anything I would otherwise butcher. This aspect of teaching and learning a language is just not a strong suit of mine.
Why not, you ask?!
I often cannot hear the subtle differences in the sounds people make. What I do find incredibly interesting, however, is the history of how language has developed into what it is today, in all its variations. This is a part of linguistics that I can get behind. I do have a degree in history after all. Plus, the practical uses throughout history of everyday things is just interesting to me.
However, you know who can very distinctly do what I cannot? Erik Singer.
Clearly the man is an expert, he has been working in the field of linguistics since 2008. We are collectively all the better since he started uploading videos, or he is interviewed by WIRED and those are posted to YouTube, where he very clearly and simply explains variations in language and dialect for us. He is an internet favorite because he is clearly good at what he does.
This brings me to what I wanted to share with you. WIRED on Youtube has published a new series “Accent Expert Gives a Tour of U.S. Accents”. In this series dialect coach Erik Singer leads us along on a tour of various American accents and I find it really neat. Of course, Singer doesn’t do this on his own: He is joined by other linguists and language experts as well, including Nicole Holliday, Megan Figueroa, Sunn m’Cheaux, and Kalina Newmark with many others assisting to share real life examples of variations of dialect. If you click through to the videos themselves, the description of each includes additional resources for learning and research, as well as timestamps for each example mentioned in the videos.
Have a look below and click through to the original video if you would like to learn even more.
If you want to learn more about Erik Singer and how awesome he is, click here to learn more from his website, including other videos he has made where he breaks down other aspects of language, both real and fictional.
(I have to grab my popcorn, I’ll be right back.)
When they make additional videos I will either update this page or link to a new one.
Oh, and if you are interested, I have written about dialect before, find that here.
Over to You
What do you think of the dialects of American English that Eric Singer brings up? What did he miss or leave out? What do you think about the many variations of American English? Were you aware of all the differences?