Hayes family of South Africa

South African English pronounciation

In the alt.usage.english newsgroup there are frequent discussions of different pronounciations of English words and different accents. These are very often difficult to describe to people who have not heard them, and the Ascii phonetic alphabet is of little use because it is not clear which sounds are being described by each symbol. On this page I give samples of the Woozer (WUESA = White Urban English-Speaking South African) pronounciation of some of the words and phrases that are commonly discussed.

Cot and caught vowels

    Speech samples - click to hear
  1. cot, caught, cart
  2. He caught the ball on the tennis court
  3. God, Gawd, Lord, Lawd, lard
  4. dog, dawg, darg

Bath and park

It is said that bath is the English shibboleth, the word whose pronounciation, more than any other, gives away the origin of the speaker. A phrase like park the car can be eqally distinctive, and with a strong South African accent comes out something like "pork the cor", or, for those with rhotic accents, "pawk the caw".

    Sound samples - click to hear them
  1. bath
  2. park the car (my normal pronounciation)
  3. pawk the caw (imitating those with heavy South African accent)

The rain in Spain

"The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain" is a phrase reputedly used by language teachers. Perhaps it is a good example, because it is a vowel not found in some other languages, Russian, for example. It is also, however, a vowel that differs in different dialects.

In the example, I give my own "normal" South African pronounciation, and then my own perception of the way it is pronounced in Australian and RP (Received Pronounciation). Note that the "Australian" and "RP" versions are not authentic. They are South African perceptions of those accents (ie caricatures). RP and Estuary English speakers often say they find it difficult to distringuish between Australian and South African accents. American English speakers often say they find it difficult to distinguish between South African and British accents. I hope the samples will help to make the differences clearer, at least as South Africans perceive them.

    Sound sample: The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain
  1. South African pronounciation
  2. Australian pronounciation - as perceived by South Africans
  3. RP - as perceived by South Africans

If you have any comments on or questions about these sound files, you can make them on the alt.usage.english newsgroup, or send me E-mail:

Another good place for learning about English accents and pronunciation is Forvo, where you can hear words pronounced by English speakers in from different countries, and add your own pronunciation.

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This page maintained by
Steve Hayes

Created: 27 July 2001
Updated: 26 September 2013