What is British English?
There are many different varieties of English spoken throughout the world, and one of the most well-known is that of British English. However, what people may not know is that there exists huge variation in English spoken in the United Kingdom.
You can find different dialects of English not only between the four countries of the UK - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - but also within each country. If you get on a train and travel for 30 minutes, you could arrive in a place with a completely different dialect of English!
In fact, there are over 37 different dialects of British English spoken within the UK, and probably many more!
What is the difference between Dialect and Accent?
So what is the difference between a dialect and an accent?
A dialect is a difference in words used, for example:
Standard English: Are you okay?
Scottish English: Are yous okay?
Standard English: Can you tell me the news?
Scottish English: Can you tell us the news?
As you can see, “you” changes to “yous”, and “me” changes to “us”. Different dialects of English use different words.
Another difference you will notice within the UK is the word “wee”. If you visit somewhere up North such as Scotland, North East England, Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, then people will say this to mean small. For example:
“Aww what a wee cat! So cute!”.
If you visit elsewhere within the UK, you are far more likely to hear the word “little”, as in, “aww what a little cat!”.
An accent, however, is a difference is pronunciation.
For example, in Scottish English there is no difference between:
/aː/ and /a/
/uː/ and /ʊ/
Therefore, in Scottish English, these words are all pronounced the same:
ant - aunt
soot - suit
caught - cot
In standard British English, and many types of international English, these words are pronounced differently.
British English compared with other nations
While so far we have looked at differences in spoken English in the UK, it is important to state that British English, as a whole, uses many words that a student of American English might not know!
For example, a casual term for “man” in British English is “bloke”. For example, “He is a nice bloke”.
In American English, people are far more likely to use the word “guy”. For example, “He is a nice guy”.
In British English, you may be asked to walk on the “pavement”. Whereas in American English, people are more likely to ask you to walk on the “sidewalk”.
These are just a few examples, and there are many more!
Depending on where you choose to visit, you will find differences in vocabulary and pronunciation. Whether it is London, Bath, Cardiff, Edinburgh, wherever, the English spoken by the people you meet will be unique!
There are so many differences between accents and dialects throughout the United Kingdom, if you ever get the chance to visit, then get ready to hear many different types of English!
Cheers! (Thank you!)
Test yourself with the questions below:
A. Are the following sentences Scottish English or Standard English?
1. Can you pass us a cup of tea?
2. Aww, what a small cat!
3. Hello, are you okay?
4. Are yous from around here?
5. These shoes are a bit wee for me!
B. Are the following words British English or American English?