When you are trying to understand the different British accents you may be wondering which is the “real” accent. The truth is that there really isn’t a single accent that defines British English. The different British accents and British dialects vary from region to region and even from town to town within a region!
Let us look at the main regional British accents and British dialects spoken around Great Britain. Why not doing a general english course in Britain to hear them in real life?
If there could be said to be an “official” British accent then this would be it. Received Pronunciation (RP) is sometimes referred to as the “Queen’s English” and is spoken mostly by the upper classes – Lords and Ladies and, of course, the Queen herself.
It is a fairly “flat” accent with emphasised vowel sounds, for example the vessel you drink tea from is a cup and is pronounced with an emphasised “u” sound like “cuhp”.
This accent is spoken mainly in the counties around London and by announcers on the BBC world service programmes.
Cockney is an accent that is often, incorrectly, referred to as just a London accent. In fact Cockneys are a particular group of Londoners who live within earshot of the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow church and Cockney is one of the distinct British dialects. Defining features of the Cockney accent are the use of “glottal stops”, the swapping of a “th” sound with an “f”, replacing the “r” sound at the end of words with an “ah” and dropping the “g” from the end of words. So you would say “I fink I’d like a nice bit of bread an’ bu’ah”.
The Cockney dialect also uses rhyming slang. This is where other words or phrases, which rhyme with the word you want to say are used instead of the word itself! A couple of examples are – “dog and bone” (phone), “apples and pears” (stairs), “trouble and strife” (wife).
The West Country comprises the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Gloucestershire. The accent in this region originates from one of the oldest British accents and, indeed, British dialects – Anglo=Saxon. Saxony is part of modern day Germany so the west country accent and dialect has many similarities with German, for instance, rather than say “I am”, someone from the West Country might say “I be” which is a bit like the German “Ich bin”.
The accent used by a lot of Hollywood “pirates” is a West Country accent – Captain Barbossa played by Geoffrey Rush is a good example.
People from Plymouth in Devon have a particularly strong accent. If someone from Plymouth had a sore throat, a runny nose they would say they had a “code” rather than a cold and when they get married they exchange “gode” rings.
Wales is one of the three countries that make up Great Britain and it has its own Welsh language although the official language of Wales is still English and is spoken with a very distinctive accent.
It is quite a soft and musical accent, in fact many famous singers are from Wales, Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews are good examples. A Welsh person would pronounce Wales as “Weey-alls” rather than “Wayls”.
Brummie is spoken by people from the city of Birmingham and is one of the most recognisable British accents.
Generally speaking, the Brummie accent has very distinctive vowel sounds so someone with a Brummie accent might ask you “how yowm dooin?” rather than how are you? They would also say “allroit” instead of alright when agreeing with something.
If you were going into town to meet a friend you would catch a “boozz” rather than a bus and when you were leaving would say “tarrah a bit” instead of goodbye. The singers Ozzy Osbourne and Jeff Lynne are both from Birmingham and still speak “Brummie” despite living in America for many years!
Scouse is the accent used by Scousers – someone from the city of Liverpool. Probably one of the most well known of the British accents owing to the fact that “The Beatles” came from Liverpool. Despite being a well known British accent it can be a difficult one to understand!
In Scouse, words with a double “o” like look, are pronounced long as in goose and, rather confusingly, words with a “u” sound in the middle are similarly pronounced so it might be difficult to decide if a Scouser is saying “look” or “luck”!
The Geordie accent, is both a British accent and British dialect and the name of the people from the city of Newcaste-upon-Tyne.
A lot of Geordie words are similar to Scottish ones, for instance a baby is a “bairn” although others are distinctly Geordie. If you are speaking Geordie and are very thirsty you might say that you are “clammin for a drink”, if you’ve been doing a dirty job you would end up being “hacky”. Geordies tend to replace the “r” sound at the end of words with an “ah” sound and the “i” sound in words can become elongated so a Geordie who was “clammin for a drink” might well drink “haff a leetah of watah”.
Scotland is a country within Great Britain with its own distinct British accent. People from Scotland are Scots and speak with a Scottish accent.
One of the features of the Scottish accent is the sounding of the rolling “r” after a vowel in words like farm, warm and better. Also a lot of “ou” sounds are pronounced like the double o in goose. So, instead of “house” a Scot would say “hoose”. Although the Scots speak English there are a number of words which are instantly recognisable as purely Scottish so, instead of saying “the little child doesn’t like the house” a Scot would say “the wee bairn does nea like the hoose”.