Please note: We have mainly written about England, as that is the country within the UK where our students live. We would be very happy for schools and visitors to send us information we can add to our website on Wales and Scotland.
In Britain, the main language is English (British English). It is not the same as American or Australian English. 'Hi mate' is not the correct and appreciated way to approach someone in the street. Neither is 'G'day', 'Howdy' or 'Hey Mister'. The formal British way to greet someone is 'Good morning, good afternoon or good evening' and, if you want to ask something, 'Excuse me please'.
Most people in Britain usually say' hello' or 'hi' when they greet someone.
Not everyone in Britain speaks with a plummy English accent, like Hollywood wants you to believe. No-one sounds like Dick van Dyke in the film, Mary Poppins.
- The English language is a West Germanic language, originating from England.
- Over fifty percent of the English language is derived from Latin
- English is the third most common "first" language (native speakers), with around 402 million people in 2002.
Why is English spoken with different accents?
In Britain, every part of the country has its own way of speaking English. People in Yorkshire sound very different to people in Surrey; a Somerset accent is very different from any Scottish accent and it's hard to believe that people from Birmingham are speaking the same language as those from Cornwall. Most people in Britain can guess where someone comes from by the way they speak, either by their accent or by the words they use.
Identification of an accent can place the speaker in a general area of Britain. Geordie, Scouse, and Cockney are well known dialects from Tyneside, Liverpool and London respectively.
Today the 'home counties' accent is usually accepted as Standard English. The home counties are the counties nearest to London
A dialect found mostly in East London is called cockney rhyming slang. You can read more about cockney rhyming slang by clicking here.
Languages spoken in London
Speaking like a Brit
If you would like to speak like a person from London, Newcastle, Scotland, and Liverpool, click on the link below.
British English is different to American English.
Find out how here.
Do Wales and Scotland have their own language?
People in Wales speak a completely different language. About 25% of the people there still speak in their native Celtic tongue called welsh.
Shwmae? in welsh means How are you?
Hoffet ti ddiod? means Would you like a drink?
In some regions of Scotland, Gaelic is used as a first language (particularly in some areas of the Highlands and the Western Isles). All over Scotland, the accent varies, some words are different but overall it is not too difficult to understand.
Jorge Peterman Martínez a Spaniard (with an English father) spent many years living in the UK, mostly in Scotland writes:
In the highlands of Scotland, English widely spoken is remarkably clear. When I first worked in the UK I generally found it much easier to understand people there than in southern England (I worked mainly in Oxfordshire, Dorset, Kent and London.) This surprised me.
In Glasgow and Edinburgh, there are local dialects, a mixture of Scots, English and urban argots. Those (the vast minority) that use these dialects are generally aware that non-locals find them difficult to understand and will try to adapt their language and speaking speed. The vast majority who speak standard (Scottish) English are very easy to understand. In the south of Scotland, especially in Borders villages, people might speak Scots among themselves. That's something else.
When most Scots speak standard Scottish English, the accent is not stronger, just different. Standard Scots English spoken by most Scots is really very easy to understand. Think of Sean Connery.
'John is a nice bloke to know.'
- poor quality repairs.
'He made a botched job of fixing the television.'
'He doesn't have the bottle to ask her.'
- fed up
- to rain, often heavily.
'It is going to chuck it down soon.'
- If you are chuffed, you are happy with something.
'I was chuffed to win a medal!'
- Crazy / stupid
- Money / cash 'I haven't got much dosh to give you.'
- Incredibly amazed.
'I was gobsmacked when I saw my birthday presents.'
- Not happy because of an event that has occurred that didn't go your way.
'I was gutted when I didn't win the race'
- Used in place of lucky when describing someone else.
'He was very jammy winning the lottery'.
- Delicious. Shortened from scrumptious.
'The food was very scrummy'
- Broke. No money.
'I'm skint, I wont be able to buy the DVD today.'
- to long kiss
'I watched the news on the telly last night.'
See also Cockney Rhyming Slang.
Glossary of British words