A Brief Tour of British & Irish 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.

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Comments (13)
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  • Sean says:

    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!

  • Jen says:

    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.

  • Rolta says:

    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.

  • Mandopants says:

    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.

  • Matthew says:

    “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.

  • John says:

    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.

  • Michelle says:

    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”.

  • Phil says:

    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?

  • Rolta says:

    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.

  • Rolta says:

    …which is the con­fus­ing bit.

  • Kirstie says:

    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.

  • Karin says:

    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. :)

  • Helfy says:

    The Scot­tish accents in this video are bad. That is all.

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