The terms “accent” and “dialect” are often used interchangeably, but they shouldn’t be.

Accent refers to the manner a language is spoken, including pronunciation and prosody features of one’s language production.

Dialect, on the other hand, refers to a broader group of language features, which includes not only pronunciation and prosody, but also vocabulary, grammar, and social pragmatic features of a language.

The short way of explaining the difference is – “accent” is a part of “dialect.”

For instance, if we’re talking about differences in the British and American accents, we may give the example of how the British typically would not produce the /r/ if it is after a vowel. In contrast, the Americans typically produce all /r/s whether they’re before or after a vowel (the American “actor” versus the British “Acta”).

In contrast, if we’re talking about differences in the British and the American dialects, then we may refer to 1) the above /r/ example. But we may also refer to 2) how the British would say “lorry” while Americans would say “truck.” Or 3) how the British would say, “Shall we go now?” while Americans would say, “Should we go now?” Or even 4) how saying “what?” when you haven’t understood someone is considered rude in British English, but very acceptable in American English.

Now that you know the difference between accent and dialet, let’s talk about their similarities.

First, everyone has an accent and a dialect, and some have multiple. Yes, that includes you. Accents and dialects are simply variations in how we speak, depending on your geographic region and (sometimes) socioeconomic status.

Secondly, accents and dialects can be native and non-native. There are countless native English accents, with broad distinctions such as North American, British, Australian, South African, etc. Each of these broad distinctions has many finer accent distinctions, such as Brooklyn, Boston, Texan, etc.

While some are aware that there exist native and non-native accents, the majority of people are not aware that there are also non-native dialects.

Nonnative English dialects exist in countries such as Nigeria and India, where English is often used as a second, official language. This process is called “nativization,” which refers to systematic changes in a language that occurs as a result of using English in new sociocultural settings and in the absence of native speakers.

In accent training, the ultimate goal is CLEAR and EFFECTIVE communication. Ready to become a confident speaker? Reach out to me today for a free 30-minute consultation, which includes a brief screening of your accent.

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