With over 350 million native speakers worldwide, English is undeniably the most influential language in the academic and professional world.
So far so good! But, did you know that English has dozens of major dialects all across the globe? Considering different dialects and accents in any language can be a massive win, and English is no exception!
Diversity and distinctiveness are incredibly powerful tools, hence why here’s a run-down of curious facts about some of the most common English dialects. You’ll be surprised!
British English (Europe)
British English is basically where it all began: the English language as we know it originated in modern-day England. However, Received Pronunciation – the accent traditionally regarded as the standard for British English taught to learners across the world– is spoken natively by only about 3% of the British population. Shocking, isn’t it?
In terms of spelling, words that end in “or” in American English have an extra “u” in British English (e.g., colour). And words that end in “ize” are spelled with an “s” (e.g., realise).
American English (Americas)
English is the the most widely spoken language in the United States - though it’s by no means the only one - and is the de facto common language used by the federal and state governments. The vocabulary of American English can be tricky even for the rest of the English-speaking community, and their great use of the letter “r” when pronouncing the words can be notoriously challenging for speakers of other languages.
And for those planning on working with American colleagues, be wary of the odd measurements American English speakers use: weight is in pounds; temperature is in Fahrenheit; and distance is measured in inches, feet, and miles.
Australian English (Oceania)
G’day mate! The Aussies truly take on a life of their own when it comes to the pronunciation, so the Australian dialect is instantly recognizable – words like “night” would instead sound “noight”.
Perhaps the most curious feature of it is their tendency to shorten words, such as “barbie” for barbecue or “brekkie” for breakfast. In fact, the word “selfie” was born in Australia, where the "-ie" ending is often used to form new words.
Canadian English (Americas)
Canadian English combines elements of both American (in terms of vocabulary) and British English (grammatically speaking), but the thing is that Canadian does exist as a separate variety of English, with subtly distinctive features of pronunciation and vocabulary. Did you know that?
Canadians are known for their uniquely use of the interjection “Eh!”, which is a versatile word that can be used to indicate agreement, surprise, and a host of other sentiments. However, the truth is that most Canadians will tell you they don’t say “Eh!” much, and that it’s more associated with less-educated speech.
South African English (Africa)
The English language in South Africa (SAE) has become a particular regional version of English. Though it’s not the top language in the country, there’s quite a large population of English speakers, especially in urban areas like Cape Town. You’ll also hear English on South African TV and other media.
South Africans have taken some English phrases and have gave them a completely different meaning. Most of them are time expressions: (e.g “now now” doesn’t mean “immediately”, but “in a little while”).
New Zealand English (Oceania)
To an untrained ear, the Kiwi accent may sound exactly like Australian English, but there are key differences in pronunciation and vocabulary that will make you tell them apart! New Zealand English has also its own slang words, such as “choice”, meaning good.
Interestingly enough, along with English and Maori, Sign Language is one of the three official languages of New Zealand. And don’t worry if some words seem unfamiliar to you! New Zealanders tend to incorporate Maori words when they speak English; “Kia Ora”, for example, is often used to say “hello”.
Irish English (Europe)
Known for its old-timey charm, the dialect of Ireland is a vibrant version of English with unique distinctive features - “I do be”, for instance, is a habitual present tense. It represents a unique combination of elements drawn from Irish and English, so there is also a curious habit of flavouring one’s speech by adding a few words from Irish.
Indian English (Asia)
India is the world's second-largest English-speaking country. Nevertheless, with 120 million English speakers, only a handful of them speak English as a first language and very few are truly fluent in both English and an Indian language. English is, however, the prominent language for national, political, and commercial communication.
And if the measurements used in American English weren’t complex enough, Indian English uses the original Indian counting system for large numbers, such as the word “lakh” which refers to 100,000.
These are just a few examples of how important it is to consider the diversity of English varieties when addressing culturally different target markets. And remember all dialects can vary widely by region, so don’t take nothing for granted and contemplate every option to help boost your business.