Learn British accents and dialects - Cockney, RP, Northern, and more!


Hi. I'm Gill at www.engvid.com,

and today's lesson is about accents in the U.K.

So, U.K. accents and also dialects.

Okay, so what's the difference between an accent and a dialect?

Right. Well, an accent, as you know, is to do with pronunciation, how you pronounce the

word. Dialect is when you have a word that only people in a certain area of the country

use; it's not a national word, it's a local word that maybe people from other parts of

the country, they won't even know what it means, so that's dialect. Okay. So, let's

just have a look through some of the accents that we have in the U.K.

The one that you're probably learning as you're learning to pronounce English words is RP.

"RP" stands for "Received Pronunciation". It's a slightly strange term. "Received" where

do you receive it from? Well, maybe you receive it from your teacher.

This is how to say this word.

It's a slightly strange expression, but RP, it's usually referred to by the initials.

And it's the kind of accent you will hear if you're watching BBC Television programs

or listening to BBC Radio. Not everybody on the BBC speaks with an RP accent.

The news readers tend to be RP speakers, but not always.

But the strange thing is that in this country,

only a very small percentage of people do speak with this accent.

Apparently, just 3%,

but they tend to be people in positions of power, authority, responsibility. They probably

earn a lot of money. They live in big houses. You know the idea. So, people like the Prime Minster,

at the moment David Cameron, he went to a private school, he went to university,

Oxford, so people who have been to Oxford and Cambridge Universities often speak in

RP, even if they didn't speak in RP before they went to Oxford or Cambridge, they often

change their accent while they are there because of the big influence of their surroundings

and the people that they're meeting. So that's RP. It's a very clear accent. So, it's probably

a good idea to either learn to speak English with an RP accent, or you may be learning

with an American accent, a Canadian accent, all of those accents are very clear. Okay.

And being clear is the most important thing.

Okay, so moving on. RP, as I should have said, is mostly in the south of the country; London

and the south. So, also "Cockney" and "Estuary English" are in the south. Okay. So, Cockney

is the local London accent, and it tends to spread further out to places like Kent, Essex,

other places like that. Surrey. There's a newer version of Cockney called "Estuary English".

If you think an estuary is connected to a river, so the River Thames which flows across

the country, goes quite a long way west. So anyone living along the estuary, near the

river can possibly have this accent as well.

So, just to give you some examples, then, of the Cockney accent, there are different

features. So, one example is the "th" sound, as you know to make a "th" sound, some of

you may find it difficult anyway, "the", when you put your tongue through your teeth, "the",

but a Cockney person may not use the "the", they will use an "f" sound or a "v" sound

instead, so the word "think", "I think", they would say would say instead of: "think",

they would say it like that: "fink", "fink", and the top teeth are on the bottom lip, "think".

And words like "with" that end with the "th", instead of "with",

it will be "wiv", "wiv",

"wiv". "Are you coming wiv me?" So that is one of the things that happens with the Cockney accent.

Words like "together" would be "togever". Okay?

The number "three", t-h-r-e-e is often pronounced


"We have free people coming to dinner. Free people." So, there can be confusion there,

because we have the word "free",

which has a meaning in itself, "free", but if you actually

mean "three", the number three, there can be some confusion. So don't get confused by

"free people". -"Oh, they're free? They're free to come?" -"No, there are three of them.

Three people who are free to come." Ah, okay.

Another example, another aspect of Cockney is the glottal stop. Words like "computer"

with a "t" in it, the "t" is not pronounced. So, some... A lot of Cockney speakers will

say: "Compuer, compuer", I don't need to write it, because you can hear I'm missing out the

"t" and doing a glottal in my throat instead: "compuer", "computer", "compuer". Okay? And

the word "matter": "Does it matter how I speak?",

"Does it maer? Does it maer how I speak?"

So, that's for you to decide: Does it matter or maer how you speak, how you pronounce?

There's another thing with Cockney.

When there is an "l" sound in a word, like in the word "milk",

the word "milk", Cockney speakers tend to make a "wa" sound where... Instead

of the "l". So, instead of: "A glass of milk", they will say:

"A glass of milwk, milwk",

and they "wa", go like a "w". So... And the "mail", m-a-i-l,

when you have the mail delivered,

they might say: "The mawl, maiwl, maiwl", it's hard for me to say. "Maiwl", rather than

"mail", the "l" you make with your tongue, and the... The roof of your mouth just behind

your front top teeth: "mail, le, le". "Mail" is the Cockney.

And there's a place in the west of the country,

which I'm sure you've heard of... Oh, I'll put it by this one.

To the west of the West Country, the country called Wales, and you've

probably heard of the Prince of Wales, one of the royal family.

This word, with a very

strong Cockney speaker, with a very strong accent tends to pronounce it like: "Wows",

not "Wales", but "Wows", which is like saying "wow" with an "s" on the end.

"Wows. We went to Wows for our holiday."

But it's actually "Wales". So these are some examples of that.

And one more aspect of Cockney is the letter "h"...

So if you have a name like "Harry",

"Harry" would be pronounced "Arry", and "have" where you make the "h" sound "hu", "ave".

So, the Cockney speaker tends to miss off the "h". Okay, so okay that's just a few examples

of how the Cockney accent differs from RP.

Okay, so now we have a little bit more space, we'll move on a little bit further north.

And the Midlands is an area of the country about a hundred miles or more north of London,

the Midlands, which is in the middle of the country.

Okay? And there's the East Midlands

and the West Midlands. I happen to come from the East Midlands. So my accent is now, because

I now live in London and I've lived in London for a long time, my accent changed gradually

after I moved. But there is still a little bit of a mixture in my accent. For example,

I still say words like "bath" and "path",

which is the same as the American and Canadian

pronunciation. Lots of people say "bath" and "path", but the RP pronunciation of these

words is "baath" and "paath", so there are a lot of these words where the "a" is not

the "a" sound, but the "aa" sound. So that is one thing I have not changed in my accent;

I still say "bath" and "path", because to me it feels very strange psychologically to

talk about a "baath" or a "paath". It's just a step too far for me.

But other aspects of my previous accent I have changed.

For example, if you have a cup of tea...

A cup of tea, that's the RP pronunciation, but where I come from in the Midlands, we

called it "a coop of tea". Okay? So, I'll spell it like that, that's just a kind of

phonetic spelling. Coop, coop of tea. So, it feels very strange for me now to say "coop",

because I have trained myself to say "cup",

which feels more refined. A nice cup of tea,

not a coop of tea. Okay? And similarly, larger than a cup is a mug.

That sort of thing is a mug, pronounced "mug", but in the Midlands, they say "moog", a "moog".

"Do you want it in a coop or a moog?"

Okay? That's how they would say it. And the word "up", "up", "look up",

they would say: "Look oop", so that's another one. Similar.

And in the Midlands also, and in other parts of the country, sometimes people are very

friendly, and they call people "love".

"Hello, love, how are you today?"

They use it in the south, but of course in the Midlands and the north, they say: "luv", okay?

So, the word "love" as well used when you're speaking to somebody in a friendly way: "Hello, love".

"Love", "luv", they say "luv". Okay. Okay, so that's just a few examples of the Midlands

and the Northern as well. The further north you go, you still get these, "bath", "paths",

"cup", "mug", "love", "up", it's all very similar, really. So from the Midlands upwards.

Okay, moving on, there is the West Country, which is over obviously to the west of England.

Before you get to Wales, because Wales has its own accent, which is different again.

The West Country, I can't really imitate that very well, but it... People sort of imagine

it as a very sort of farming area, a kind of rural accent.

And if... If you ever listen to a radio program called "The Archers"

on the radio BBC Radio 4, they, some of the characters

in that program-it's a little drama series-speak in this West Country accent.

So, that's all I'm saying about West Country, because I can't imitate it.

So, moving on, apart from England, the country that has given the language its name, "English",

we have other countries. Scotland in the far north,

Wales in the far west,

and then Irish, the other island to the west,

an island all on its own called Ireland, which is confusing.

"Ireland" is the name of the country, and it is an island. And, of course, Britain,

Scotland, and Wales is another island, because it has the sea all around it. So, each of

these have their own accent again.

So, with the Scottish accent, if a Scottish person with their Scottish accent says:

"I don't know", they say: "Ah dinnae ken".

Okay? So that means "I don't know". So:

"Ah dinnae ken" is the... My accent isn't very good, but that... Those are the words that are used.

"I don't know". Okay. And

instead of saying "can't" or "cannot", they say "cannae".

"You cannae be serious.", "You can't be serious." I think a tennis player used to say that, didn't he?

If he was Scottish, he might have said: "You cannae be serious, man."

So, "cannae" instead of "can't" or "cannot". Okay?

So those are some examples of Scottish accent and dialect.

And Scottish people also, instead of saying: "Yes", they say "Aye", so a-y-e means "yes".

And they also, instead of saying: "Oh!", the exclamation: "Oh! Oh!" They say: "Och! Och!"

and they make this sound in the back of their throat, which is like the German "ch" sound.

So: "Och!" And they also have these large expanses of water, like big lakes, which are

called lochs, so "loch". So: "Och! I fell in the loch!" And they also have a slightly

different up and down in their voice as well. "Och! I fell in the loch! Och! I'm wet through!"

So they have a certain way of speaking. If you've ever heard Sean Connery in a film,

he changes his accent sometimes, but if you hear Sean Connery, he's a Scottish actor,

speaking in his Scottish accent, you will get some idea of the Scottish sound. And also

the younger actor, David Tennant, who also uses different accents, but sometimes he uses

his native Scottish accent. Okay, right, so that's some Scottish examples, and I just

need to clear some space again to give you just the last few examples. Okay.

Okay, so just one more example for you. There are various cities, which have their own distinct

accents. Okay? Places like Liverpool, which is up in the northwest;

Birmingham, which is in the West Midlands;

Newcastle, which is in the Northeast;

and Glasgow up in Scotland.

And I just would like to give you a few examples from the Birmingham accent.

So, in Birmingham,

if you say: "I'll, I'll be there",

they actually, they change the vowel sound, and they say:

"Oil", so it's like "oil". If they say: "Fine"... We say "fine", okay, but they say "foin",

so like that. And the word for the cosmetics that you put on your face, which we call "makeup", makeup,

all one word. When you make up your face, you're using makeup. They pronounce

it: "Mycoop, mycoop". Okay? So it's like "my", "mycoop". "I'm going to buy some mycoop",

instead of: "I'm going to buy some makeup".

Okay. So that's just a few examples to show

how a particular accent can change the vowel sound.

Right, so having said all of this and given you some examples, just to come back to London

briefly and any other big city, you get many, many accents in a big city; you get the accents

from the people who live in that country, the national accents and the regional accents

from different parts of the country, and you also get all the international accents from

people who have come from other countries. Okay? So in any big city that you visit, you

will hear many, many different accents.

But there are three main things that really matter with accent.

It doesn't really matter so much which accent you use,

as long as you have these three things:

Clarity, that's if you speak clearly. Okay?

Pace or the speed, don't speak too quickly and you can ask other

people to speak more slowly for you to understand them.

And volume, sometimes people speak very quietly,

and you need to ask them to speak more loudly, to speak up.

Those are the three main things. Whatever your accent, don't worry too much about your accent,

just try to be clear,

don't speak too quickly,

and speak with a good volume; not too quietly.

Don't be so shy about making mistakes that you speak too quietly. Make it fairly loud.

Okay, so I hope that little overview of U.K. accents has been useful for you.

And if you'd like to test your knowledge, we have a quiz on the website, www.engvid.com.

So if you'd like to go there and do the quiz,

and if you'd like to subscribe to my channel on YouTube, that would be great.

And so, thank you for watching and hope to see you again soon.

Okay, bye.