Confusing British English accents

London property landlord Nick Parkin has written a guest blog post for us. In it he talks about different British English accents, and his experience of just how confusing they can be even for a native British English speaker!

British English accents

British Accents can be incredibly confusing to someone not born and bred in the country.

Any particular accent will often reveal much more than simply the area of the country that the speaker came from: it may often indicate their social class, and education. This explains why most call centres are situated in Yorkshire and Southern Scotland – these areas have accents which most of the UK population find pleasant, understandable, and socially neutral.

My own accent is very southern (London) middle class, educated. Early in my career I worked in a Lancashire Chemical Works with “Blue Collar” tradesmen (working class). When I started work I noticed a strange phenomenon – whenever I was nearby they would start talking in some strangulated high pitched language which I found harder to understand than their natural Lancashire accents (which were difficult enough for me!).

Northern folk are very welcoming and friendly so I was quickly able to unravel the story behind this new language I was hearing. They were actually teasing me about my southern accent, but getting things very very wrong!

Their ears were detecting a clear southern accent, but just as I can’t tell the difference between a Warrington accent and a Manchester accent, their ears wouldn’t distinguish between my middle class London accent, and a Cockney working class accent which to me is a different language to my own. So to tease me they were doing a Cockney accent thinking that it mimicked my own, and to make matters worse their Cockney mimicry was NOT good!

So, when you are learning English, and struggling to understand what someone is saying to you …… remember, it may not be you that doesn’t speak the language!

Nick Parkin, Renting London Flats

Read more about English accents and dialects in the UK

Listen to recordings of the diverse voices of the UK

And here’s a selection of accents from the British Isles, from impressionist Mister Seanie. His characters and stereotypes are exaggerated of course (and perhaps insulting depending on which part of the UK you come from!), but it’s an entertaining and mostly accurate account of some of the wide variety of English accents we have here.

Have you ever had problems understanding an English accent?

Image by Dimitry B