A Brief Tour of British Accents: 14 Ways to Speak English in 84 Seconds

Americans, coming from the enormous and relatively recently settled place we do, tend to have a hard time with accents, struggling to grasp the extent of the variety of regional ways of speech in smaller, older countries, let alone to use them ourselves. Studying the Korean language, I’ve found that understanding a native speaker from one city doesn’t mean I’ll understand anything said by another native speaker from a city fifty miles away. (Though that holds true even for Koreans themselves; hence the prevalence of subtitles on their television shows.) Visiting London a few months ago, easily as I could make sense of everybody speaking my native tongue, I pre-emptively gave up hope of picking up on the nuances of all the accents people had brought to the city from their hometowns — much less the numerous and subtle dialects native of London itself. Everyone I met insisted that a Briton’s accent says more about their origin, class, station in life, and degree of self-regard than any other quality, but not knowing Newcastle from Southampton when I first set foot on English soil, I had to take them at their word (however they happened to pronounce it).

The video above, in which professional dialect coach Andrew Jack demonstrates fourteen British accents in 84 seconds, might help sort things out for my fellow confused countrymen. “Received communication is the great communicator,” Jack says, using the accent I assume he grew up with. “As soon as you deviate from that and you go into London speech, for example, you lose a little bit of the communication.” By that point, Jack has seamlessly transitioned into Cockney, from which he then shifts into the accents of East Anglia, the West Country, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Liverpool, Northern Ireland, Dublin, the Scottish highlands, Glasgow, North Wales, and South Wales. The Youtube comment box below has, predictably, filled with complains about all the accents — the commenters’ own, dare I imagine? — that didn’t make it into this brief linguistic tour. Though far from comprehensive, the video does in any case put the lie to the notion so many non-Brits seem to have that they can “do a British accent.” If you encounter one of them, don’t ask them to demonstrate it; ask them which British accent they mean. Then you’ll really hear how poorly they fare.

via Kottke

Related Content:

Peter Sellers Gives a Quick Demonstration of British Accents

Peter Sellers Reads The Beatles’ “She Loves You” in Four Different Accents

Sir Patrick Stewart Demonstrates How Cows Moo in Different English Accents

What Shakespeare Sounded Like to Shakespeare: Reconstructing the Bard’s Original Pronunciation

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.



Make knowledge free & open. Share our posts with friends on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms:

by | Permalink | Comments (13) |

Choose a comment platform

Comments (13)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  1. me says . . . | April 17, 2014 / 12:23 pm

    “Received communication is the great communicator,” * Received Pronunciation. RP is the standard English accent (and that’s what he was speaking at the start).

  2. Sean says . . . | April 18, 2014 / 11:13 am

    A brief tour of British and Irish accents, you wouldn’t post a similar thread relating to Canada and the USA and neglect to mention USA in the title!

  3. Jen says . . . | April 18, 2014 / 11:18 am

    That is NOT a Scouse accent! I’m from Liverpool, and it just doesn’t even sound remotely Scouse. It’s something I’ve noticed; people who aren’t from Liverpool just can’t emulate the accent at all.

  4. Rolta says . . . | April 18, 2014 / 11:20 am

    Seriously bad understanding of the difference between Britain and England here – and that’s not even going into the stupidity of also listing “Northern Ireland” and Dublin under this banner, two places outside of Britain, one of them a city that has nothing to do with England whatsoever. I thought this was meant to be an intelligent website?

    Please can you fix this, because it just perpetuates stupidity.

  5. Mandopants says . . . | April 18, 2014 / 11:58 am

    Rolta – what are you on about!? I think you’re the one perpetuating stupidity…

    Where does he confuse Britain and England!?

    This is a video about how people from the BRITISH ISLES (that’s Ireland, N. Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales) speak English (the language) in different ways.

  6. Matthew says . . . | April 18, 2014 / 12:03 pm

    “A Brief Tour of British and Irish Accents” should be the headline. The Republic of Ireland is not part of Britain – this is something which is very important for those of us who live there. The Republic of Ireland also has many different accents.

  7. John says . . . | April 18, 2014 / 2:10 pm

    Since when is Dublin British? Is New York Mexican? That’s so insulting, more so this weekend as it Easter, and people commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising.

  8. Michelle says . . . | April 18, 2014 / 2:39 pm

    Hey Mondopants…your ignorance is out done by your offensiveness. Ireland is NOT part of the “British” Isles. You refer to an archaic and loaded political definition long since rejected in modern times, including the Irish Government. Check it out on a new invention called the “Internet”.

  9. Phil says . . . | April 18, 2014 / 4:25 pm

    When Brits tell me they can do an American accent, I smile and say “what kind of American accent?” When they try one, I don’t really care how good it was, I just tell them it was terrible. Does that make me a jerk? Or an elitist xenophobe?

  10. Rolta says . . . | April 18, 2014 / 4:26 pm

    The Dublin accent would be considered a British accent only by those trying to ham-fist the definition of a British person (i.e. someone from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) with the never-used “British as in someone from the British Isles”.

    That’s not the way it works. A British person is someone from the UK, not someone from The Republic of Ireland, where I am currently sat.

    Additionally, I am from the UK, and my passport nationality is British.

    Additionally, the term Great Britain is the island which includes Wales, England and Scotland, and it has nothing to do with Ireland.

    What I was wrong to say was the Northern Ireland accent wasn’t British.

  11. Rolta says . . . | April 18, 2014 / 4:27 pm

    …which is the confusing bit.

  12. Kirstie says . . . | April 19, 2014 / 3:33 pm

    love this. great sound map of the British Isles. I was waiting for the jump to the North East. you left out the Geordies – that’s a big wedge of England right there.

  13. Karin says . . . | April 20, 2014 / 10:55 am

    I think the confusion here is between the geographical and political definitions of “British”.

    As landmasses and human inhabitants go, “British Isles” is defined by Oxford dictionary as:
    “A group of islands lying off the coast of northwestern Europe, from which they are separated by the North Sea and the English Channel. They include Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Isle of Wight, the Hebrides, the Orkney Islands, the Shetland Islands, the Scilly Isles, and the Channel Islands.”

    The use of “British” here has nothing to do with politics or nationality – it’s not called a Brief Tour of English accents, or a Brief Tour of United Kingdom accents, it’s a Brief Tour of Accents of a Group of Islands, etc, etc”.
    My main complaint is that they left out the Orkneys – a part of the British Isles whose accent is the coolest combination of Scottish and Scandinavian. :)

Add a comment

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Quantcast