Today I want to talk about accents; after roughly one year in the oldest english speaking Country in the world, I figured out several things.
First and foremost, the posh “clean” queen’s english is something that I rarely heard in London, except on BBC or from some old man’s mouth. At the very beginning I used to live in Ilford (Essex), and people over there seriously tend to eat half of the words or drop them down in awkward sounds a foreigner could find hard to recognize. With that said, I do not want to generalize, of course there are a bunch of good english speakers in Ilford and East London as well.
One day for example, I was just chilling out walking down Hainault Street (Ilford town center) while two cute girls stopped me asking for a “li-ah”… I said “what?”… a “li-ah”. So I was pretty confused. Eventually we sorted it out and realized that they just needed a lighter. Later on I learned that this weird sound is called glottal stop, which is something similar to the interruption sound you make while saying for example “uh-oh!”.
This, with many other things started teaching me the cockney accent. Another thing about cockneys is the “th” sound, like in “think”… Well, apparently cockney speakers tend to change it into the “f” sound, so for instance “I think of something” becomes “I fink of somefing”.
And furthermore, the “i” sound like “tight”, “like” or “knife” becomes more like “oi” as in “oil”. So the last three words I mentioned would sound like “toight”, “loike” and “knoife”.
Those are just little things I noticed as a non-native speaker, you are completely free to disagree.
One last thing I could say about cockney accent is the particular usage of the rhyming slang; maybe it’s not very common nowadays but I want to show two quick examples just to have an idea:
– If you want to say the word “wife”, the cokney way for it is “trouble and strife”.
– If you want to say “stairs”, in a cockney way you should say “apple and pears”, which is pretty weird if you do not know about it.
Let’s talk a little bit about irish. Ok… If you can have a drunk conversation with an irish bloke and you’re both able to understand each other, you can definitely say that your english level is pretty cool. Come on, seriously now. Of course I’m kind of stereotyping the situation, but I found hard to have conversations with irish people, expecially at the very beginning of my stay. I would say that there’s a lot of difference comparing Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland, but they both tend to speak with “closed” vowels, and it makes some words very tough to understand.
The “r” sound changes as well, it is maybe more pronounced (not like in Scotland, but kind of).
We can find then many other facets, like the scouse Liverpool accent, or the geordie, but I don’t know those dialects enough to be able to say something detailed about ‘em.
Last but not least, I would probably say that the smoothest and most understandable british english to my ears is the one spoken in Yorkshire. Everytime I met someone from Yorkshire I have never ever had any kind of problem in understanding what he or she said to me.
As I said before, this is the subjective idea of an italian living in London for less than one year, so I could be completely wrong in what I think and what I wrote. If you disagree, I would like to know why in the comment section below.
Talk to you soon, bye!