“Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things.” - Flora Lewis
A good grasp of English is useful in so many contexts and places; whether for socialising, work or just getting by in an Anglophone country.
English lessons, whether in the form of online language courses and private tutorials, often only teach one dialect of English. However, English has a rich diversity of accents, dialects and forms across the many places it is spoken.
Did you know that English is listed as the official language of 54 states around the world? Over 300 million speak English as their first language. This is an important reason to check out the many different types of English, different English words and dialects, forms of English grammar present all over the world.
Each of these 54 countries has put their spin on English. In this article, we'll take you on a tour of the English-speaking world. Different English speaking countries have their own unique pronunciation for things like vowel sounds, phrases, grammar, slang. There might also be different grammatical structures or words that mean one thing to certain English speakers and have a completely different meaning to others!
This isn't something you can find in the Oxford dictionary, so strap in!
Australian English Speakers
If you're reading this from our Australian website, chances are you're already living in Australia, or are thinking about living, working or studying there.
Australian English is a little different from English in the US and UK.
But don't panic - it's essentially just English with a different accent and a few Australian slang words thrown in! You'll understand it right away if you understand British and American English and you'll pick it up especially quickly if you're doing a language stay or extended holiday here!
Linguistically speaking, there are three types of Australian English, which usually depend on the speaker's level of education, social class, or whether the person lives rurally or in a big city.
There is broad Australian English, which has the strongest accent, then general Australian English and cultivated Australian English. Australian English is surprisingly rich and varied, but don't be deterred! Most of it will be immediately intelligible to the serious English learner.
Spoken English in Australia is different from other types of English thanks to its history. When Europeans colonized the country and eventually founded the Colony of New South Wales, there was a diverse range of English, Irish and even a few German settlers.
Australia was a British colony for a long time but gained independence in 1901. At this point, it was mostly influenced by British English. Over the years with the spread of popular American media, it now has some American influence as well. Today, Australian English is recognised as its own form of English, with a unique pronunciation, vocabulary and identity.
Some of our favourite typical Australian expressions...
- Mate: this means "friend", but many Australians use to it refer to each other even if they don't know each other!
- G'day: short for "good day" - use this in place of hello or hi and you will sound very typically Australian!
- Aussie: short for "Australian". You can even call an Australian person an "Aussie" - you'll find lots of Australian slang shortens a longer word and adds an "ee" or "oh" sound at the end.
- No worries: this is used to assure someone that something is "alright" or "fine" - add "mate" to the end and you have a classic Australian phrase - "No worries mate!"
- Drongo: this is an insult for someone who is a fool or a dummy.
Make sure you try out these terms with the local accent. A letter "a" might sometimes be pronounced closer to an "e" or even "i". Therefore the word "cat" could sound like "kit" or "ket" when spoken with an Australian accent.
Australians generally love it when non-Australians imitate their accents and try out their slang - so don't be afraid to try out some of these phrases on your Australian friends!
For English learners wanting to pick up new English words and English grammar, nothing beats to practice with native English speakers. Whether you're conversing with someone from America, Ireland, England, Wales or Scotland, you'll encounter wonderful teachers. On the other hand, some versions of English can be harder to understand or pick up than others...
Scottish English has a reputation for being hard to understand - even among speakers of other English dialects!
So why is Scottish English so different? Let's take a look...
Scottish English, otherwise known as Scottish Standard English, originated in the mix of English and Scots spoken during the 17th century in the northernmost part of Britain. Since then, Scottish English has evolved to develop its own expressions, vocabulary, pronunciation and identity.
Like many types of English, Scottish English has many regional accents within the country.
For example, Scottish English adds a diminutive "ie" at the end of some words. Scots may use "laddie" (lad + ie) to refer to a younger boy, and lassie (lass + ie) to refer to a young girl.
Scottish isn't usually the first thing English learners are exposed to, but if you've been learning English for a while and are interested in exploring the Scottish dialect, it's a good idea to start with written Scottish as the differences aren't so obvious.
You can check out local Scottish media to expand your English language horizons. These include local versions of radio stations and television channels like BBC Scotland and BBC Alba (that second one is in Scottish Gaelic!). This can help you immerse yourself in the Scottish language and culture.
Why not learn English online?
“Language is the roadmap of a culture. It tells you where its people came from and where they are going.” - Rita Mae Brown
Ireland is an English-speaking country, but it has two official languages: Irish and English.
Ireland was originally a patchwork of Irish dialects - one for every region. Then, in the 13th century, English was brought over by English invaders. Little by little, more people began speaking English, and the Irish English accent developed and became commonplace by the 17th century.
Sadly, many people stopped speaking their mother tongue - Irish - as Irish was stigmatized as less cultured than English. Over time, Irish English became differentiated from English, with its own accent and regional variations.
Don't expect to master Irish English is you are a beginner! But once you can speak English more fluently, this interesting accent opens up a whole new world to you.
Irish English, like many different dialects, drops the "g" sound at the end of words ending in "ing". So you may hear "walkin'" and "mornin'" instead of walking and morning. Irish is often spoken very quickly, so it can be tricky to understand! You'll need to focus a little harder.
Ireland has a rich literary culture, so if you are fluent in English, you can check out novels or plays by James Joyce, Samuel Beckett or Oscar Wilde to improve your understanding of the Irish language and culture.
If you want to know what's going on in Ireland, try reading newspapers such as Metro Éireann and the Irish Times.
American English is ubiquitous. It is the most widely spoken form of English and you can hear it everywhere around the world. American English achieved dominance through the export of films, music and TV series.
English has a shorter history of spoken English than in the UK. However, American English is independent of British English. It is also widely considered to be easier to learn for ESL learners because it is the most common dialect in international popular media.
To expose yourself to more American English, you can read Ernest Hemmingway, the New York Times, or watch CNN!
Seek out a wide variety of American resources to learn more about the different dialects and cultures of American English. A form of American English you may hear regularly in popular rap or pop songs is AAVE (African American Vernacular English). You've probably been listening to many different American accents and not even known it!
If you learnt British English first, American spelling and vocabulary may trip you up - you need to spell it "theater" instead of "theatre", "color" instead of "colour", or "sweater" instead of "jumper".
Learning English opens up your horizons to so many different dialects and cultures all over the world. While no two forms of English are the same, the best dialect to speak is the one spoken where you are living or holidaying!