How many times my friends have asked me if I have an English accent or not, I cannot say. It’s as if my obtaining the accent were more important than our friendship. Assholes.
But that’s not to say that 1) I can’t do the accent or 2) I wish I had it permanently. To the former point, I have indeed been studying up on English enunciation, practicing my elongated vowels and honing in on the at times puzzling use of what I thought was a language I spoke fluently. But I guess I can’t really write in an accent as proof of my achievements…
I can, however, provide insight on something just as important as the English accent: the English vocab. After all, if you wanted to hear an English accent you’d pop in a Harry Potter DVD and listen your way to ecstasy. After six months of living in London, I have comprised a basic and amateur list of the first steps toward adopting this almost universally desired mode of speech without sounding fake:
[Disclaimer: It must be noted that the following is purely London-speak. As one travels outside of the greater London area, these words may count for nothing. Furthermore, the slang I've learned is merely a sample of the central London area. Venture to Hounslow or Brick Lane and you're bound to hear even more interesting words.]
1) This one isn’t a word but nonetheless requisite in sounding remotely English: how to ask a question. (I’ve never tried to type inflection but I’m gonna give it a shot. Anything italicized indicates rising inflection and a slight degree of emphasis.) There’s a pub nearby called the Rocket. In America we’d say, “Should we go to the Rocket?” but in London you say, “Should we go to the Rocket?”
2) The use of ‘reckon’: We often associate the word ‘reckon’ with Hick-ville, America, but ‘reckon’ is quite frequently used in normal conversation in London. Saying, “D’you reckon…” is a perfectly appropriate substitute for “Do you think…”. Though I’ve really only heard it used for prompting speculative analyses of certain situations (i.e. “D’you reckon it’s still open now?”).
3) Ending sentences with ‘yeah?’ and ‘isn’t it?’: You can end almost any sentence with ‘yeah?’ or ‘isn’t it?’ and it’ll make perfect sense in London. Sometimes one or the other is more appropriate but on the whole they’re pretty interchangeable. For instance, instead of saying “Are we going out tonight?” I might say “We goin’ out tonight, yeah?”. Instead of “It’s so nice out today!”, I’d be better of saying “Lovely weather, isn’t it?”
4) ‘Legging’, ‘Quid’, ’Lad’, ‘Well’, ‘Proper’ and ’(Quite) Nice’: I legged it ’round the corner when I saw the guy with the gun start goin’ after me. He was probably going after the 40 quid in my pocket (note: ‘quid’ isn’t used as often as ‘bucks’, so use it judiciously and never say ‘1,000 quid’. You’ll get fantastically weird stares if you do). Someone saw me in trouble and put a banana peel in the guy’s way so he’d slip, which was both a lad thing to do and well funny at that. After that ordeal I needed a proper drink: not hydration but intoxication. I tried this strange grape whiskey which was actually quite nice (not ‘really nice’; it can be ‘really good’ but never ‘really nice’).
5) The implied ‘r’ between words ending in vowels: The question, “Is there Vodka in it?” is actually pronounced with a small but important ‘r’ sound in between the ‘a’ in Vodka and the ‘i’ in in. The result: “Is there Vod-ker-in it?”
6) ‘Cheers’: Arguably the most important word in the English language. Don’t overuse it, you’ll look like a fool. You can always undersell the ‘cheers’ but never oversell it. Outside the context of drinking, you use ‘cheers’ in place of ‘thanks’. So when the bartender gives me my pint, I say, “Cheers.” But if someone gives me directions, I’ll say “Thank you”. If you give someone a lighter, they’ll probably say “Cheers.” But if you assuage their existential fears, they won’t be saying “Cheers”.
Obviously I’m no expert. But all of that is definitely a starting point. As for the question of whether or not I have even the slightest tint of an English accent…well I guess we’ll find out when my feet touch American soil again.