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Variants, dialects and accents of English

Variants, dialects and accents of the English language

English is nowadays the global lingua franca and the third most-spoken native language in the world (the top 10  languages in the world by number of native speakers are: 1. Mandarin Chinese 2. Spanish 3. English 4. Hindi 5. Arabic 6.French 7. Portuguese 8. Bengali 9. Russian and 10. Indonesian). As Bill Bryson puts it in his memorable book The mother tongue, it is a an irony that “a language that was treated for centuries as the inadequate and second-rate tongue of peasants, should one day become the most important and successful language in the world”

As you may know, English is not a uniform language, by a long shot.  From cockney to received pronunciation,  from Jamaican English to  Canadian English and, of course, from the so-called “British English” to “American English”, there are countless examples of local variants, dialects and accents.

But first of all we must make clear what a variant, a dialect and an accent are:

  • A variant is a specific form of a language used in a culture, for example English is a language, and English as used in the USA is a language variant.
  • A dialect is a form of a language spoken in a particular part of a country, containing some different words and grammar.
  • An accent is the way in which people living in or from a particular region or social group pronounce words.

I’ve thought that the best way, or, if you like, the most  straightforward way of understanding such differences and variations is by watching the following videos offered by some awesome native speakers:

acentos en inglés


British English


Standard British English 

Standard British English (often associated with British English and the Received Pronunciation) refers to the dialect of English language that is used as the national norm in a British country, especially as the language for public and formal usage. grammar and vocabulary. Abbreviation: BrE, UK

3 minutes to a proper British accent with U of A“.

Received Pronunciation (RP)

Other names: RP,  BBC Pronunciation, the Queen’s English.

Received Pronunciation is an accent, not a dialect, since all RP speakers  are supposed to speak standard English.  According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, RP is the “standard accent of English as spoken in the south of England”. However,h it can be heard from native speakers throughout England and Wales, since it is identified  not so much with a particular region as with a particular social group (mostly upper and upper middle class).

Cockney (London)

Area: London ( East End are Bethnal Green, Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Stepney, Wapping, Limehouse, Poplar, Clerkenwell, Aldgate, Shoreditch, Millwall, Cubitt Town, Hackney, Hoxton, Bow and Mile End.)

Aly Williams.  Youtube Channel: Learn English with Papa Teach Me

Brummie (Birmingham)

Region: Birmingham, England.
Number of speakers: 3.7 million

Joel and Lia Youtube channel

Picky Blinders’ Cillian Murphy and Helen McCrory on brummie accent  (minute 03: 50)

…Even Picky Blinder’s creator, Steven Knight,  admitted that Birmingham’s accent is “very difficult to get right”.

Scouse (Liverpool)

Region: Merseyside, England.

English like a native Youtube Channel

Liverpool fc Youtube channel


Region: Newcastle, South Northumberland, Tyneside

Graham Oakes’ Youtube channel

Yorkshire accent

Region: Yorkshire, England
Alternative names: Broad Yorkshire, Tyke, Yorkie, or Yorkshire English

Go to Harrison Fletcher’s Youtube Channel

Scottish English

Region: Scotland
Alternative names: Scottish Standard English or Standard Scottish English (SSE).

Youtube Channel: Beauty Creep

Irish English

Alternative names: Hiberno-English
Region: Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Number of speakers: 4.3 million

American English (Standard)

Region: United States of America
Number of speakers: 225 million
Abbreviations: AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US
Alternative names: United States English or U.S. English
Varieties: Eastern New England, New York City, South, North, Midland, West

US map United States map


Youtube Channel:  Pronunciation Pro

American English accents

Fun tour of American accents by Amy Walker, actress, singer and accent chameleon:

Youtube channel: Amy Walker

New England (Connecticut) Accent

Youtube channel: Electric Ryan

New videos coming soon.

Canadian English

Region: Canada
Abbreviations: CanE, CE, en-CA
Native speakers: 19,4 million

 Youtube Channel: Like a Native Speaker

Australian English (Aussie English)

Region: Australia
Native speakers: 16,5 million
Abbreviation: AuE; en-AU)

Youtube channel: Tabloid Junk

New Zealand English

Region: New Zealand
Abbreviation: (NZE)
Number of speakers: 3.8 million

Amy Walker’s Youtube channel

Gibraltarian English

Region: Gibraltar, Iberian Peninsula, Europe.
Abbreviation: GibE

Nigerian English

Region:Nigeria, Africa
Number of speakers: approximately 150 million


Youtube channel:  Adefolake

Jamaican English

Region: Jamaica, Caribbean Sea, America
Number of speakers: 2,890,000

Indian English

Region: India, Asia
Abbreviations: IndE, IE
Number of speakers: around 10% of its population (125 million people) speak English, second only to the USA and expected to quadruple in the next decade! English is also the co-official language of the Indian government.

So… who knows? Maybe we’ll all end up speaking the Indian English variant!
By the way, here is one of the funniest videos about English variants I have ever seen, so enjoy it!

 Youtube Channel: Dyaus Prithivi

One thing is for sure: they have a great sense of humor 🙂


So, as you can see, English language differs greatly from one variant or dialect to another. Robert Burchfield, a New Zealander lexicographer, scholar, and writer, even asserted that American English and British English were drifting away so rapidly that within two centuries both nations won’t be able to understand each other. Whether it is true or not, it remains to be seen. It is my belief that  platforms such as Netflix or HBO, will play an important role regarding this issue.

Perfect English Pronunciation (British English)

Trainer: Anthony Kelleher

Learn every single English sound from a native British speaker to take your accent and pronunciation to the next level



Perfect English Pronunciation Practice (American English)

Make yourself better understood in English when you learn & practice how to pronounce 12 tricky English consonant sounds



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3 minutes to a proper British accent with U of A Prof David Ley

David Ley recently became an Internet sensation for his use of a vibrator to improve vocal range for singers and actors. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZSEby…)

Now Ley—who is a drama professor, and voice and dialect coach at the University of Alberta—offers a three-minute tutorial on how to speak with an upper class British accent. With Ley’s help, a hard candy and a little practice, you’ll be directing the sec-retree to the lav-retree in no time.

Look for a profile on Ley in the Spring 2013 issue of New Trail magazine. (http://www.newtrail.ualberta.ca/)

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