How to Learn a Scottish Accent?

Scottish Accent is claimed to be the coolest accent in the UK. But mastering the accent is no easy task – you have to practice the typical Scottish Gaelic mouth movements and sounds. That said, you can sound like a true Scot in no time when you know exactly what to improve. Luckily, this article covers all the details regarding how to learn a Scottish accent. So, let’s get started!

Elongate the “Oohs”

If you get a chance to speak to a Scot, you will notice that they leave a tighter gap in their mouths when pronouncing the “ooh” sound. So, ‘foot’ becomes ‘fooht,’ and ‘should’ turns to ‘shoohld.’

This is opposite to typical RP accent English speakers, who leave a wider gap in their mouth when pronouncing the “oohs.”

The same goes for “u’s” in a Scottish accent. You pronounce ‘pull’ as ‘poohl’ and ‘bull’ as ‘boohl.’

Consider this example to grasp the concept better: the sentence, “Should I bring the book along,” converts to “Shoohld I take the boohk along” in a Scottish accent.

Flatten the “Ehs”

The Scottish people flatten and elongate the “eh” sound until it resembles an “ieh.” But don’t go all out! Instead of turning the “eh” into “ee” like in ‘eerie,’ make a faint sound such as that in ‘ear.’

Keeping this rule in mind, you would have to pronounce ‘yet’ as ‘yiet,’ ‘blend’ as ‘bliehnd,’ ‘query’ as ‘quiehry,’ and ‘red’ as ‘riehd.’

Here’s an example of how to flatten the ‘eh’ sound in a Scottish accent: If a Scottish person were saying, “There was one way to settle the matter,” the words would come out as “Thiehr was one way to siehttle the mattiehr.”

Turn the ‘Oh’ into ‘Or’

The ‘oh’ sound is elongated in Scottish, making it seem more like an ‘or’ sound. The word Scottish turns into Scorttish under this rule.

Similarly, the word ‘robot’ becomes ‘robort,’ ‘clock’ becomes ‘clorck,’ ‘shock’ becomes ‘shorck’ and ‘hotchpotch’ turns to ‘hortchportch.’

One thing to understand here is that you don’t want the ‘r’ sound to be clear. You just want to give an impression.

For instance, if you were to say, “I got to the bus stop right after the bus left,” in a Scottish accent, you would pronounce it as, “I gort tor the bus storp right after the bus left.”

Wider “I”

The “I’s” in the Scottish accent are very distinct and prominent. It actually sounds like a flattened “a” or an “ae.”

The Scottish people pronounce their “I’s” with such sophistication that anyone can distinguish a Scot based on the vowel sound.

Thus, they pronounce ‘price’ as ‘praece,’ ‘blind’ as ‘blaend,’ and ‘child’ as ‘chaeld.’ Another excellent example is ‘nine.’ While a British English speaker would pronounce it as ‘na-ine,’ someone with a Scottish accent says ‘naene.”

Take a look at this example sentence to get a better idea: “I am tired of working a nine-to-five job.” This sentence would come out of a Scot’s mouth as “A-e am taerd orf working a naene-to-faeve jorb.” Remember the “turn the ‘oh’ into ‘or’ rule?” Yep, we used it in this sentence!

Flatten the “Oh’s”

The “oh” sound is pronounced noticeably flatter in Scottish than in Received Pronunciation English accent. It sounds more like “or,” comparable to the “oh” sound but considerably louder.

Following this rule, you would have to pronounce ‘cloak’ as ‘clourk,’ ‘board’ as ‘bourd,’ and ‘floor’ as ‘flou-or.’ The same rule applies to two-letter words. For example, you would translate words like ‘no’ and ‘so’ as ‘nou’ and ‘sou,’ almost like you say ‘soap.’

Here’s a great example: while a typical RP English speaker would say, “I woke up by the sound of my phone, even though it was not very loud,” someone with a Scottish accent would say, “I wourke up by the sae-und of my phourne, even thourgh it was nout very lourd.”

Know the Technicality Behind the “Ow” Sound

Scottish people narrow their mouths when pronouncing the “ow” sounds. In other words, they switch from a diphthong to a monophthong.

For example, an RP English speaker would pronounce certain words like ‘couch,’ ‘mouth,’ and ‘mouse’ as ‘cowch,’ ‘mowth’ and ‘mowse.’ A person with a Scottish accent, on the other hand, would pronounce the same words as ‘cae-ooch,’ ‘mae-ooth,’ and ‘mae-oose.’

So, if you were to say, “Look, I will be quiet as a mouse and cause no trouble,” you would say, “Loork, A-e waell be quiet as a mae-oose and cause nou trourble.”

Narrow the “Ay” Sound

You must have guessed that the Scottish people love to narrow their mouths when pronouncing vowels. This rule is just another example.

You would tighten your mouth in a Scottish accent and convert the “ay” sound into a diphthong. For instance, while someone with an RP English accent would pronounce ‘again’ as ‘uh-gen,’ a Scottish person would say ‘aga-en.”

The same rule applies to words like ‘amaze,’ ‘await,’ ‘brain,’ ‘craze,’ and ‘grace.’ In a Scottish accent, these words would transform into ‘ama-eze,’ ‘awa-eit,’ ‘bra-ein,’ ‘cra-eze,’ and ‘gra-ece.’

Now, make sure you don’t pronounce your “ay” sound in a Scottish accent as they do in Geordie or Northern UK accent – the latter accents have a more distinct sound profile.

Focus on Your “Ah’s”

The Scottish also have a distinct way of pronouncing their “ah’s.” They say “ar” instead of “ah.”

So, in this case, the word ‘back’ changes into ‘barck,’ ‘glass’ changes into ‘glarss,’ and ‘pan transforms into ‘parn.’

One thing to remember here is that you shouldn’t be too extreme with the ‘r’ sound. Instead, you should keep it subtle. If you have ever heard a posh British person speaking, you might have noticed them saying “ah” in words like ‘farm.’ This ‘ah’ sound with a hint of ‘r’ at the end is what you are aiming for!

You must have noticed that vowels in bath and map are pronounced the same. However, the ‘a’ in both these words is pronounced differently in Posh British accent. So, you pronounce ‘bath’ as ‘barth,’ laugh’ as ‘largh,’ ‘map’ as ‘marp,’ and ‘trap’ as ‘trarp.’

Keeping this rule in mind, you would pronounce the sentence “The rest of the clan followed without a word” as “The rest of the clarn foulloued withae-ut a wourd” in a Scottish accent.

The “Ih” Sound – an Alteration to the Previous Cases

Do you remember how we mentioned the Scottish people love to tighten their mouths when pronouncing several words? Well, this rule is the complete opposite!

The Scottish people pronounce the “ih” sound by opening and widening their mouths. As a result of this distinct alteration, the “ih” sound converts to “eh.”

Thus, they pronounce the word ‘thick’ as ‘thehck,’ ‘flip’ as ‘felhp,’ ‘chip as ‘chehp’ and ‘minutes’ as ‘mehnutes.’ When we apply the same rule to “Scottish,” we pronounce the word as “Scortehsh.” Yep, we applied the third rule here as well!

Consider a sentence, “The instructions said to bake the cake for fifteen minutes.” Someone who doesn’t have a Scottish accent will deliver the sentence as it is. However, when you speak in a Scottish accent, you would say, “The instructions sae-id to baeke the caeke for fehfteen mehnutes.”

Pronounce your Consonants the Scottish Way

Up till now, we have been discussing vowel sounds. But once you learn the Scottish accent, you will notice that the Scots pronounce their consonants differently. Not sure what I mean? Take a look at these rules to get a better idea:

Only Tap your “R’s”

“R” is perhaps the most difficult accent to master in any accent, be it Posh British, French, Spanish, Russian, or Scottish.

Unlike the Posh British accent where they roll your “r’s,” you simply tap the letter when speaking in a Scottish accent, making it non-rhotic. It’s almost like you let the “r’s” stay as they are, lightly pronouncing them as you proceed to the next letter.

For example, a mediocre English speaker would associate the “rrr” sound with words like ‘courage,’ ‘earth’ and ‘three.’

You can practice with the words’ era,’ ‘dirty,’ and ‘Florida.’ Once you get in practice, you can proceed to words with double-r’s like ‘Harry,’ ‘sorry,’ and ‘berry.’

There is an interesting variation of the same rule. In certain words, where the letter ‘r’ is followed by an ‘l,’ you will not roll your ‘r’ even once. So, you will pronounce the word ‘girl’ as ‘gir-ul,’ world’ becomes ‘wor-uld.’

Dark “L” Sounds

The “L” sound is the second most difficult consonant pronunciation in a Scottish accent. The trick here is to roll the “l’s” to pronounce them like pro-Scottish.

You might find it difficult to perfect the “l” sound in a Scottish accent, but we have a trick to help. Assume that you are saying the word ‘luh.’ You will notice that the word comes out thick from the front of your mouth.

Similarly, you can compare the dark “l” sound in a Scottish accent to words like ‘pool’ and ‘call’ in a Posh British accent. So, in a Scottish accent, you pronounce ‘little’ as ‘llittlle,’ ‘lick’ as ‘llick,’ ‘list’ as ‘llist,’ and ‘problem’ as ‘probllem.’

Forget Glottal Stops

If you have ever had the chance to talk to a Scottish person, you must have noticed that they don’t use glottal stops. They don’t skip their “t’s” even in words like ‘water’ and ‘daughter’ or when they are speaking fast.

Focus on the Dialect

When researching a particular accent, you must look up any dialect words. This is essential because certain words are different in some accents.

So, for example, Scottish people say ‘have any’ in place of ‘haven’t.’ So, when adopting a Scottish accent, you will deliver the sentence, “It is not a problem if you haven’t gotten any biscuits” as “It is nou a proublem if you have any gotten any biscuits.”

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