Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thoughts about English

We don’t have too many meaningful conversations here in France in French. Our French just isn’t good enough to talk about too much except where things are and how much does it cost. (I will say Nancy’s French has come a long way from just a few years ago. She is doing far better than I am.) So our interesting and meaningful conversations are with the other English speakers in the area. And of those, there are more than a few.

We speak with Irish, Australians, Canadians and English, but mostly with Brits. And the thing that continues to amaze me is the number and variety of regional dialects that come out of the United Kingdom. I suppose someone has put a number to the different variations, but I couldn’t find one. Some of the dialects are easily understandable to the American ear and others are not.

In the U.S. we mostly speak pretty much just like every other American with the exception of the South and the Northeast. There are certainly more variations that just those two, but you have to listen pretty close to discern a Chicago accent and a Pennsylvania accent. The regional accents may be disappearing, if you listen to some experts, due to the influence of movies, television and radio and people moving around from place to place. For instance, Florida once had a southern accent but now you listen and hear a standard American accent, or New York or “New Joisey”.

So my point is, we Americans are accustomed to hearing English spoken in a certain way, and we’re accustomed to hearing British English or Irish English or Australian. We all remember the Liverpuddlian accent of the Beatles, yes? But then they throw you a curveball. There are about 6000 (my estimate that I’ve pulled out of the air) other dialects in the British Isles. Rather than pick out individuals that we know and using their dialect as an example, I’m going to refer you to a website where you can hear the dialects yourself. It’s a lot of fun. You can click on one of the little icons and hear the dialects spoken. If you keep your cursor on the icon, the printed version will appear. Sometimes, you can’t follow the ballgame unless you’ve got a program, and sometimes you can. Sometimes you ask yourself "This is the English language?"

So check it out and let me hear from you English speakers in the comments.


Anonymous said...

Hello Douglas, I am typing this slowly so that you will be able to understand me. I do hope that this article is not making fun of the sweet almost melodic Manchester accent that I have ...or put it another way.....
eeeeeeawright are kid av youse bin roun mi ouse? sweet, wuh me mam an dad in? sorted man, am buzzin, Noel Gallagher right. Actually i have been waiting for a comment about the way I talk, I am just suprised it took so long !!!!


North of Andorra said...

Nigel: You do have a lovely, lilting, indeed sweet and melodic way of speaking. It's just that I don't understand every word. MY problem not yours. And anyway, this post wasn't about you specifically. It's about the vast number of different dialects in the UK. However, I treasure your comment, as I do each and every comment.