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THE UK: Once you arrive

The different types of British accents

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When you think of the British, you may imagine poise, sophistication, royalty. You might also associate the English to movies that you are accustomed to. Men who are impeccably well-mannered with Hugh Grant’s posh accent and the easily-comprehensible Queen’s English. In fact, you are not guilty in recalling My Fair Lady’s Professor Henry Higgins who heavily enunciates his words.

 

Well, what you have in mind may come as a shock when you touchdown on British soil. You will be bombarded with accents that you are unfamiliar with; nothing close to your idea of the British English that you have learned in school or been exposed to. It could be confusing or even totally bewildering because they may not even sound remotely English.

 

This is because the UK is very rich in dialects with countless accents shaped by thousands of years of history. So that you are not caught off-guard, here are some of the popular accents to familiarise yourself with:

 

British Accents

Geordie

As the oldest English dialect still spoken, Geordie normally refers to both the people and dialect of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in Northeast England. Don’t worry if you find this accent difficult to understand at first, as many other Brits also struggle!

 

Geordie Brit Cheryl Cole came close to starring in the US version of the X-Factor but was dropped from the show as no one could understand what she was saying!

 

To prevent you looking completely confused, here are a few words that you might hear when speaking to a Geordie:

 

“Canny”, pronounced “CAH-ne”, meaning good, nice, true.

“Gan”, meaning to go, such as “We’re gan doon the road.”

“Doon” means down.

 

Cockney

Commonly spoken in East London, the cockney accent is also used to refer to anyone from London. Cockney is also described as anyone within earshot of the church bells of St. Mary-le-Bow in the city of London.

 

Listen to the accent.

 

Multicultural London English (MLE)

This London-based accent, known as a sociolect, is a dialect specific to a particular social class and predominantly heard among young people.

 

If you find yourself wondering the streets of Hackney in London, you might come across the following terms:

 

“Blud” meaning mate.

 

“Ends” refers to a neighbourhood or geographical area.

 

“Bare” is used to mean very or lots of which might be confusing as it is used in standard English to mean sparse or uncovered.

 

Scottish English

Scots roll their Rs regularly and collapse their words so that they sound like they have been cut off in the middle. For instance, ‘cot’ instead of ‘caught’ and ‘not’ with ‘nee’. So instead of saying you ‘didn’t do anything in Edinburgh’, it sounds more like ‘didnee do anythin’ in Ednbrah.’ To get a feel for the accent, just think of the gorgeous Gerard Butler.

 

West Country (Southwest British)

The West Country accent can be heard in the South of England, just about fifty miles west of London and extending to the Welsh border. Often, the letter ‘r’ is pronounced after vowels. Instead of saying mother as ‘muthah’, someone from the Southwest would say ‘mutherrr’. Look up Comedian Justin Lee Collins.

 

 

Midlands English

The most famous is Brummie English, spoken by people in the midland’s city of Birmingham. Brummie has repeatedly been voted as the worst accent in the UK, despite the popularity of the British show Peaky Blinders.

 

Welsh English

The accent is heavily influenced by the Welsh language. Although a survey has shown that some Welsh feel that their accent may prove to be a hindrance to their career, others remain proud and describe the accent as melodious and lilting. Watch the hit show Gavin & Stacey to hear welsh English in natural conversation. Is it a yay or nay for you?

 

Estuary English (Southeast British)

Typically heard around Southeast England, Estuary English is commonly spoken by people who live along the river Thames and its estuary. However, it can also be found stretching beyond London to the regions of Essex and Kent. Estuary English is often described as a mix between cockney and Received Pronunciation (RP).

 

Look up comedian Russell Brand or Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay to hear Estuary English used in conversation.

 

That’s right. You may be very good at English with high scores in your IELTS, but nothing prepares you for the various British accents.

 

Check out the video below to hear more on British accents:

 

 

Want to study in the UK? Find more advice articles below:

 

Applying for a UK student visa

A beginner's guide to studying in the UK

 

Study in the UK

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An aspiring journalist with a passion for investigative journalistic work. Also a self-declared masterchef.