Language Interference in the UK

Hi everyone!

How did those passives go? How many did you get to form? Remember, you can leave your exercises at the reception desk and I will correct them and give them to your teacher so he/she can give it back to you!

Today I’d like to address a recurrent students’ issue. Often, when our students go to the UK they come back a little bit discouraged because they say they didn’t understand a word of what people told them! Although this seems to be a common head scratcher there’s a very simple explanation to it! I often tell my students that the English language is an alive language, it’s not fixed, every month new words start to be used in different regions of the country and it is just not possible to keep track of all of them! It’s not that you don’t understand the language, what happens is that the different accents and slang words make it more difficult! That’s why, from very low levels, at Euroschool we insist on the importance of understanding meaning by context, because English is relentlessly growing.

I understand how this answer may not satisfy some people, they think that they don’t understand because they’re not native speakers, so I asked our teacher Daniel Davies to share his experience! Daniel has been living in Spain for over 3 years now and even though he has a good level of Spanish he still struggles with slang, especially when he goes out of Galicia.

Here’s his view on this topic, enjoy!


How many different words can you think of that replace the word ‘friend‘ in Spanish?

In English for example they can range from duck to butty, all depending on the area you’re in. In the midlands of England someone may greet a friend with “alright duck” whereas in the South Wales valleys the term butty, often shortened to but, can be heard in common speak. There are many regional variations on the well know terms of lad, or mate.

In South London for example the phrase “alright pal” is commonplace but it sounds more like “awrite paw”. In Liverpool, on the other hand, the term lad is prevelent, though often pronounced with a silent d so it sounds more like la. There are many differing examples of words like these being used, as a native speaker with an accent that has been  described as strange and other times described as beautiful I will try to explain my particular situation.

What makes my English so different to the English spoken by someone born a matter of hours away from my hometown?. Perhaps it’s important to look at that specific place, Llandovery. This is a strong Welsh speaking region of Wales where the language of the street is Welsh, people generally greet each other in their mother tounge. This gives the English spoken there a distinctive accent. Lots of Welsh English is derived from Welsh grammar, the subject pronoun required in English is not required in Welsh English and the order of the words often follows the order seen in Welsh language gramatical structures.

For example

“Hurt, are you”              “Cold, are you”

“rhacs, wy ti?”               “Oer, wy ti”

Also, a lot of actual Welsh words can be heard in everyday English throughout the country. Words such as “bach” litteraly meaning small can be used to finish sentences.

“Do you want a cup of tea, bach?”

Not only in Wales are accents strong. I challenge you to search for Paul Gascoigne interview on youtube and understand what he is saying. He is, theoretically speaking, talking in the same language that we learn here at Euroschool. Thankfully, we do not have to learn Geordie English, the accent from Newcastle, one of the most distinctive in the UK, but also probably one of the most difficult to understand.

Perhaps the most recognizable accent to people from outside the UK is that of the cockney, the London accent. This for example has its own terms and phrases for everyday things such as, for example, “apples and pears” means stairs, “rosie” means tea and a “ruby” is a curry.

These examples could not be further from the received pronounciacion that we learn here at Euroschool because it would be almost impossible to teach you every slang word for every region or area in the UK, but it gives each region its own identity and is quite often a badge of honour for the population.

So Daniel’s experience tells us what he has learnt when travelling around the UK, how varied the English language is! However, I had one last question, again one that students often ask me in class:

Q.- Daniel,  do you, as a native speaker, have problems understanding different accents or slang when travelling around the UK?

A.- Yes! It is difficult to understand some accents. Like the Geordie accent from Newcastle and the Scottish accent at times. It’s more difficult to understand the local dialects rather than the actual accents!

Take a look at this interview to one of the members of the famous reality show Geordie Shore to check out Geordie accent (Charlotte Crosby ) and you will definitely understand why even a native speaker would have problems undertanding it!

So, for everybody out there thinking your English is not good because you don’t understand every word people say to you remember: you’re not alone! Even native speakers struggle with it too! 🙂

If you want to learn more about the experience of an English speaking person living in Spain, check out this blog: Bleak Britain to sunny Spain

Have a great week and enjoy the wonderful autumn!

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(Beddington, London Borough of Sutton)



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