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English Speaking: British English Accents

The Many British English Accents

How many English accents are there? British and American, everyone knows. Do you know any other English accents?
English accents, boy with question marks hovering above his head

You might think of Australian, New Zealand..

Yet, even though Britain is such a small island, there are many varieties of English here, as you may have noticed!

Even within one small part of the UK, there can be completely different English accents. For example, Liverpool and Manchester are only 50 km apart, but sound very different to even a casual listener. Other accents show gentler shading into each other, but are still quite distinctive relatively quickly.

There are too many British accents to list, and if I tried to, it would offend some British people who felt that an accent they especially loved had been left off the list, or that I had included one area with another, when there is local rivalry. The following link gives a quick overview of a few accents, and celebrities who speak with them, to show you some of the variety involved. Youtube- 17 British accents

Even in the comments section, you will notice how many British people mock her accents, but I don’t think they are so bad!

Learner Support

How can learners of English deal with all this variety?

There are a few pointers you can take-
The London accent, which is probably the one you will encounter most often, is quite distinctive. Traditionally, Londoners will-
• Drop the letter “H” at the beginning of words- they don’t say “hat”, but “at”.

• Drop the letter “T” at the end, and sometimes in the middle, of words- they don’t say “get out of my pub”, but “ge’ ou’ o’ my pub!”, and may say “bu’er” instead of “butter”

• “Th” can become “f”, so the word “think” may be pronounced “fink”.

Really broad London accents will have other features, but these three features are fairly common even in the accents of educated people.

england_map

The other broad collection of accents that may be useful to know some features of are northern ones. There is enormous variety here, but a few features in common. Two of these are-

• Short “a” sound in many words- Northerners often say “bath”, Southerners “ba:th”. The sound of the “a” in “ham” is used by northerners in “grass”, “glass”, or “pass.”
• “U” is pronounced as in “book”- rarely ever as in “but”. Even “up” will become something like “uup”.

However difficult an accent may seem, spend enough time in the area, speaking to those who use it, and you will pick it up.

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