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What language do you speak in Britain?









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.

Interesting Facts
  • 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 an 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 know 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 Londn

What is Cockney rhyming slang?

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.

Queen's English  Jolly Well
Liverpool  Scouse Translator
North England  Yorkshire Translator
Birmingham  Brummie Translator
Newcastle  Geordie Translator
Scotland  Scott Translator
London (East End) Cockney Rhyming Slang Translator

British English is different to American English.
Find out how here.

Do Wales and Scotland have their own language?

Wales

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?

Scotland

In some regions of Scotland, Gaelic is used as a first language (particularly in the Highlands and the Western Isles). All over Scotland, the accent is markedly stronger, some words are different but overall it is not too difficult to understand.

Slang Words

Below are a few slang words commonly used in Britain.

Bloke - man.
'John is a nice bloke to know.'

Botched - poor quality repairs.
'He made a botched job of fixing the television.'

Bottle - courage.
'He doesn't have the bottle to ask her.'

Cheesed Off - fed up

Chuck it down - to rain, often heavily.
'It is going to chuck it down soon.'

Chuffed - If you are chuffed, you are happy with something.
'I was chuffed to win a medal!'

Daft - Crazy / stupid

Dosh - Money / cash 'I haven't got much dosh to give you.'

Gobsmacked - Incredibly amazed.
'I was gobsmacked when I saw my birthday presents.'

Gutted - 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'

Jammy - Used in place of lucky when describing someone else.
'He was very jammy winning the lottery'.

Scrummy - Delicious. Shortened from scrumptious.
'The food was very scrummy'

Skint - Broke. No money.
'I'm skint, I wont be able to buy the DVD today.'

to Snog - to long kiss

Telly - Television
'I watched the news on the telly last night.'

See also Cockney Rhyming Slang.

Glossary of British words

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Events and special days in the UK
British Life
Pooh down the River Thames

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Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites projectbritain.com and primaryhomeworkhelp.co.uk are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.