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How to speak like a Southerner

Do you wish you could speak like Scarlett O’Hara or John Wayne? We’re going to review some common expressions and differences in pronunciation of a Southern accent. It’s important to note that there are a wide range of variations of a “Southern” accent. The South is made up of many states including, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

Pronunciation
Southerners in general tend to speak more slowly than people from the rest of the United States. This can be helpful in your listening comprehension, especially after reading these rules:

Drop the “g”
Example: Sayin’, doin’, goin’, etc.

Going to – gonna

Let me – lemme

Other differences in pronunciation are the following:

The vowel in Fill is pronounced like “feel”.

Example:
“Fill up the tank”

And the vowel in “get” is pronounced like an “I”: “git”, to rhyme with “hit”.

When there is an “R” at the end of a word it is not pronounced. River is pronounced like “rivah”, for example.

Contractions and Question tags

Doesn’t – dudden   / Doesn’t it? – Dudnit

Isn’t – iden  /  Isn’t it? – Idenit

Wasn’t – Waden  /   Wasn’t it? – Wadnit

Double negatives

A double negative is a grammatical construction when we use two forms of negation in the same sentence. This is usually grammatically incorrect, although in some languages a double negative cancels one and makes the sentence correct, and in others it serves to intensify the negation.

In the South, it is common to say “I ain’t never” and it means I will never or have never done/said/etc something.

Example:
“I ain’t never gonna speak to her again”
“I ain’t never been to California”

Southern slang & Common Expressions

Every region has its own expressions. Let’s take a look at some Southern slang!

Howdy – How do you do?

Y’all – you all

Example:
“It’s great to see y’all again”

Fixin’ to – about to (do something)

Example:
“I’m fixin’ to cook dinner”

Ain’t – am not/are not

Example:
“I ain’t goin’ to that party!”

Done – used before the verb to mean “already”

Example:
“I done told you!”

Bless your heart – poor you

Example:
– I twisted my ankle.
– Oh, bless your heart!

Coke – refers to any kind of soft drink, not just Coca-Cola

Example:
– What kind of coke do you want?
– A Dr. Pepper

Big ol’ (big old) – something really big

Example:
“He was drivin’ a big ol’ red truck”

Y’all come back now, ya hear! – Please visit us again

We also recommend watching these movies and TV series to practice your Southern accent:

True Detective – Season 1

The Help

Boyhood

Sweet Home Alabama

Mastering any accent can be challenging. We hope this article has been useful for you to improve your Southern accent for your next trip to New Orleans, Austin, or Nashville. Remember that if you don’t understand someone, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat what they said. That’s how we learn! Want to practice your English before your next vacation?

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About Robin

Robin
Robin has been teaching English in Barcelona since 2009. She enjoys learning new langagues, hiking and salsa dancing.

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