What dialect of English does your country prefer?

  • dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    For completeness sake, I should also make it clear that Jamaican English is different from Jamaican Creole. Most of the videos one can find on the internet will contain Jamaican Creole, not Jamaican English. Jamaican Creole is the language of our entertainment, as opposed to Jamaican English which is the language of business and education.
    How are these different from each other when it comes to pronunciation? Which of these dialects is more distant from, say, standard British English? Let's take Usain Bolt, does he use Jamaican English or Jamaican Creole?

    By the way, I don't know how many people in my country think the same, but I really don't find this bad at all; to me, writing and especially reading are certainly more important than talking... Probably not few, because language education in Russia is written-text based.
    It's a question of priortities I guess, and good pronunciation skills rank high on my list of priorities, and are socially desirable. I've been told that, in the UK, the better your accent the higher your chances of getting a job in, say, the office. I don't mind that terribly, though, as long as the teachers don't mislead the pupils by exposing them to an incorrect pronunciation, as it is often the case in Poland, e.g. pronouncing the word 'comfortable' as 'ˈkʌmfəteɪbl'.

    I don't want to flog a dead horse, but let's not forget that the distinct varieties of English aren't just a question of accent, but of vocabulary, spelling and grammatical construction.
    Yes, of course, but the last three factors are not as readily visible from the comfort of my own home, I'd have to talk to such individuals, which I don't have the opportunity to do. I have to make do with YT videos. There are a lot of English-speaking foreigners in my city, but sadly very few of them speak some exotic dialects of English, and I don't travel extensively, at least for now.
     

    tonyspeed

    Senior Member
    English & Creole - Jamaica
    How are these different from each other when it comes to pronunciation? Which of these dialects is more distant from, say, standard British English? Let's take Usain Bolt, does he use Jamaican English or Jamaican Creole?
    How are these different from each other when it comes to pronunciation? Which of these dialects is more distant from, say, standard British English? Let's take Usain Bolt, does he use Jamaican English or Jamaican Creole?
    Jamaican Creole aka Patois is, according to grammaticians, not a dialect but another language. However, politically speaking, it is considered a dialect.

    Pronunciation in Jamaica is a difficult question. To my ears there is a lot of variation depending on where one comes from on the island, one's background, and one's exposure to cable TV. We naturally have a propensity to changing our accent to other varieties of English accent; something we call "twanging". So it is hard for me to give categorical answers. If one talks about possibilities (because Jamaican language is a linguistic spectrum of sorts) Jamaican creole accent has the potential to be much further from British English; however, even the standard Kingstonian Jamaican English of yesteryear shares little in common with British or American English in terms of vowel pronunciation. It is, however, closer to certain Irish varieties of English, especially from the Cork area.

    To me, Usain Bolt does not speak with a Jamaican English accent at all. He is trying to use an American Accent. There are actually very few markers of Jamaican English in his speech in recent interviews. My theory is that he learned how to speak English by association with other American runners. Usain bolt is from the heartland of Jamaican Creole, so he probably spoke very little English growing up. His natural accent can be found on youtube if you search for "usain bolt natural accent".

    To me, Sean Paul's 2002 interviews with British interviewers are characteristic of a typical Kingstonian Jamaican English accent. In 2002, he had very little association with Americans; therefore, his accent had not changed much for interviews.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    [...] Yes, of course, but the last three factors are not as readily visible from the comfort of my own home, I'd have to talk to such individuals, which I don't have the opportunity to do. I have to make do with YT videos. [...]
    I take your point, dreamlike. You could see those characteristics in written texts, but finding such things on the web isn't easy.

    I won't presume to give examples of the Jamaican English I've encountered, as tony might well tell me they're "the standard Kingstonian Jamaican English of yesteryear".:p
    But a few examples of the different vocabulary and syntax of, for instance, Irish English can be found here and here. And you're right: to appreciate those differences effectively, you have to spend some time in the company of Irish people (which, I'm glad to say, I often do).

    Ws:)
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thanks, Tony, for your detailed answer. Who would've thought that pronunciation in Jamaica is such a complex issue! Highly interesting. While doing a search on YT, I came across an unusual (for me) video. Look for 'My White Jamaican Dad' -- I must say that Jamaican English (I'm pretty sure it's not Jamaican Creole-- I read up on it a bit and it would probably be completely incomprehensible to me, which the guy in the video is not) coming from him sounds fabulous!

    Thanks, WS. As interesting as it may be, reading about how Irish English or Scottish English is different from standard English is not half as fun as socializing with its speakers, which, going forward :)p), I hope I will have a chance to do!
     

    tonyspeed

    Senior Member
    English & Creole - Jamaica
    Thanks, Tony, for your detailed answer. Who would've thought that pronunciation in Jamaica is such a complex issue! Highly interesting. While doing a search on YT, I came across an unusual (for me) video. Look for 'My White Jamaican Dad' -- I must say that Jamaican English (I'm pretty sure it's not Jamaican Creole-- I read up on it a bit and it would probably be completely incomprehensible to me, which the guy in the video is not) coming from him sounds fabulous!

    Thanks, WS. As interesting as it may be, reading about how Irish English or Scottish English is different from standard English is not half as fun as socializing with its speakers, which, going forward :)p), I hope I will have a chance to do!


    That is a simple form of Jamaican Creole he is speaking, which combines both Jamaican creole grammar forms and English forms. It is the form closer to English. Jamaican English is almost identical to British English with a few borrowed Jamaicanisms from Jamaican Creole. If the grammar is different AT ALL from standard British English it is being influenced by Jamaican Creole. If you want to hear Jamaican English look up "Usain Bolt gives advice to Manchester United." That is how Jamaican English sounds.

    The white Jamaican father's accent to me sounds strange. I'm going to assume that his great-grand/grand parents must have been German immigrants. It is not a "standard" Jamaican accent. Many ethnic groups in Jamaica also preserve their own accents as well, including Chinese and Indian.
     
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    Stoggler

    Senior Member
    UK English
    This seems very odd to me. I can understand choosing one English standard as the general reference, but to actually forbid people from using a word from the other standard seems excessive. As far as I'm concerned, if a kid in my class wants to call his pants "trousers," hey, it's all good.
    That seems odd to me as well, but I can recall reading on these very forums not too long about ago some educational institutions in the US failing native English speakers who submit work with British spellings and grammar.
     
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    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I don't want to flog a dead horse, but let's not forget that the distinct varieties of English aren't just a question of accent, but of vocabulary, spelling and grammatical construction.
    We'll have to open a thread some time (I don't have time now) to discuss at what point a regional accent (and "regional" can refer to a region of the world) becomes a dialect and at what point a dialect becomes another language.
    We all know what black, white and grey mean, but there can be disagreement about where black becomes dark grey and where light grey becomes white.
    If an American speaks to me in standard American, which is perfectly comprehensible with just a few differences in grammar and word use, I can tell where he/she comes from but don't consider that to be a dialect. A dialect to me is something that is recognisably English but with a certain difficulty in understanding even for other native speakers.
    I'll start a thread when I have time if someone else doesn't beat me to it.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Hi Einstein,

    I think the question of what we understand by dialect is pertinent in this thread, since the title is "What dialect ...". So just a couple of comments:
    [...] at what point a regional accent (and "regional" can refer to a region of the world) becomes a dialect and at what point a dialect becomes another language. [...]
    "At what point a dialect becomes another language" is something that linguists have been debating for a long time, without reaching agreement — which is why the question "How many languages are there in the world?" never has a simple answer. As for the difference between accent and dialect, that's easier: accent is only one element of dialect; dialect also includes vocabulary and grammar. Accent is only spoken; dialect may be spoken and written.
    [...] If an American speaks to me in standard American, which is perfectly comprehensible with just a few differences in grammar and word use, I can tell where he/she comes from but don't consider that to be a dialect. A dialect to me is something that is recognisably English but with a certain difficulty in understanding even for other native speakers. [...]
    Standard American isn't a good example. Each major English-speaking country has a formally standardised variant of English: so it's standard for that country. Dialects are then variants of those standards.

    But whether we're talking standard varieties or dialects, I don't think we can apply 'difficulty in understanding' as a criterion to define a form of language, because it depends on who's doing the understanding. If we do use that criterion, a dialect is a dialect only for those who don't know it! But that isn't so: a Geordie speaker (assuming he's aware of standard BrE) recognises that he's speaking a dialect, and is probably proud of it. The same principle applies to standard American: Americans understand it; you understand it because you've become familiar with the differences (relative to your brand of BrE). But someone hearing those differences for the first time would have a certain difficulty in understanding it.

    As for the "few differences in [grammar and] word use", I'm not so sure about "few". I have a list of AE/BE vocabulary differences I've jotted down (as they arise) to help non-native English speakers where I work: I'm already up to more than 130 everyday words and expressions — and I've no doubt there are loads more.

    Ws:)
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    As I said, I think this is really a subject for another thread, so just two brief points:
    Standard American isn't a good example. Each major English-speaking country has a formally standardised variant of English: so it's standard for that country. Dialects are then variants of those standards.
    I agree, but the original questioner did consider American English as a dialect; I was answering that. In fact I think the thread is wrongly named for this reason.
    As for the "few differences in [grammar and] word use", I'm not so sure about "few". I have a list of AE/BE vocabulary differences I've jotted down (as they arise) to help non-native English speakers where I work: I'm already up to more than 130 everyday words and expressions — and I've no doubt there are loads more.
    Ws:)
    130 is a very small part of the total!
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I deal with Maltese people on a regular basis through my job; they speak perfect English, often a strangely formalized version of the language in fact, but there's no doubt that they sound "foreign" (and by that I mean "non-native"). English is not a native language, on the whole, in Malta.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    I deal with Maltese people on a regular basis through my job; they speak perfect English, often a strangely formalized version of the language in fact, but there's no doubt that they sound "foreign" (and by that I mean "non-native"). English is not a native language, on the whole, in Malta.
    For me, this is the way that most people speak from Commonwealth countries where English is the official language but not the native one. When you learn English from books for years and years you can achieve a very high degree of fluency but it's stilted and formal. People there tend to use structures that are no longer active or common in speech, and mix them with others that might be more current but on the whole it ends up sounding strange to the native speaker.
     
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    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    For me, this is the way that most people speak from Commonwealth countries where English is the official language but not the native one. When you learn English from books for years and years you can achieve a very high degree of fluency but it's stilted and formal. People there tend to use structures that are no longer active or common in speech, and mix them with others that might be more current but on the whole it ends up sounding strange to the native speaker.
    Very true. The Maltese seem to always say "can you kindly do/look/review X"; this is a tad strange, though correct, in my form of English.
     

    Ania R.

    Senior Member
    Polish (Poland)
    In terms of teaching, Poland definitely prefers BrE, mostly because it's Europe, so it's closer to us. But unless you're studying English as a profession, not that much emphasis is put on the accent, so even if there are British teachers, most people who study English don't really have British accent, they just sort of speak "international" English :D
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    In terms of teaching, Poland definitely prefers BrE, mostly because it's Europe, so it's closer to us. But unless you're studying English as a profession, not that much emphasis is put on the accent, so even if there are British teachers, most people who study English don't really have British accent, they just sort of speak "international" English :D
    Most teachers of English don't give pronunciation classes here either. I teach only advanced students and when I tell them how to pronounce they look at me as if I were talking Chinese, so by the time they get to me no one has ever taught them to pronounce th, h, or distinguish sit-seat, boat-bought etc... or insist on its importance. I'll never understand why teachers only do reading, writing and grammar in their classes.
     
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    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    In French educational establishments, British English (and by that I mean Received Pronunciation) is almost always preferred to American English. That being said, American English is omnipresent in France in advertisements and the like; and the avalanche of (often patently ridiculous) anglicisms invading French as of late has come almost exclusively via AE.

    If I were a non-native, I would prefer to learn American English before anything else. Firstly because it is by far the most widely spoken dialect of English and, secondly, (in my opinion at least) the General American accent is very easy to understand. Americans have a tendency to speak slowly and to pronounce each word clearly.

    That being said, I don't think I could ever bring myself to write ''color'' and ''labor''. :D
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    I deal with Maltese people on a regular basis through my job; they speak perfect English, often a strangely formalized version of the language in fact, but there's no doubt that they sound "foreign" (and by that I mean "non-native"). English is not a native language, on the whole, in Malta.
    Are you sure you are not just talking about those Maltese who desperately want to sound English. There is not just one way of speaking Maltese English. It is often very relaxed but also with words stressed in a different way - British people occasionally tell often totally misunderstand the Maltese because of that.

    And native: I've met various Maltese who really speak English better than they speak Maltese. To them English is native.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    If I were a non-native, I would prefer to learn American English before anything else. Firstly because it is by far the most widely spoken dialect of English and, secondly, (in my opinion at least) the General American accent is very easy to understand. Americans have a tendency to speak slowly and to pronounce each word clearly.
    :thumbsup:

    The easiest accents to understand (in decreasing order) for me are: Canadian, General American, Scottish (not Scots), Northern English, London accent.

    Said that, in Italy British English is preferred, if we're speaking about spelling and grammar.
    If we speak about pronunciation, in public (state owned, free) schools, they teach the Italian (macaronic) English:
    bad = bed [bɛd], bud [bäd], bid [bid] bead [biːd], hood [hud] who'd [huːd], so at school the normal pronunciation is [ɛppol] (apple) and on television most journalists say [ɛkt] or even [ect] (act).
    But I think pronunciation is not important at school anywhere (for example no English or American ambassador has a decent Italian pronunciation).
     
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    aprendiendo argento

    Senior Member
    Croatian (Chakavian)
    Croatians prefer American English,
    it's what we get on TV.

    American spelling is allowed in essays, no Croatian professor of English
    would ''ban'' American usage while teaching since students prefer it.

    Officially, the Croatian government seems to use the British spelling
    while addressing EU matters while it uses American spelling when
    dealing with NATO.

    An example of Americanized Croatian accent:
    http://www.nato.int/multi/video/2007/070119-pfp-planning/v070119a.wmv
     

    Hector9

    Senior Member
    I don't think it really makes a difference to learn one dialect (variation) or the other, but what is more important is to learn the language itself as well and fluenty as possible. The variation is accessory as it doesn't demand much time to learn the difference between them (AmE and BrE).

    One can learn the AmE variation and use it badly and/or learn the BrE and use it well.

    And we should take into account that almost all books teach BrE (the same happens with Spanish books, they teach Spain's variation and not the LatAm one). That's why it's not strange to read learners using BrE instead of AmE (and I observe the same when I read Spanish on these forums, from learners)

    Due to the previous reason, schools also teach the BrE variation.

    Yet I recognize AmE is more used (on internet and media, at least), and so is LatAm Spanish (although in Europe you may see more the Spain's variation and while it's logic, that doesn't seem to be the case on this whole part of the continent).

    In a nutshell, I wouldn't really care about the variation a book teaches me. That can be learned later. But when I've learned the language fluently, then I would tweak it and change to the variation is more used globally.

    From what I've seen, learners at the beggining tend to spend and focus (and waste, in my opinion) a lot of time to learn a particular dialect instead of spending that time on the language itself.
     
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    Mishe

    Senior Member
    Slovenian
    In Slovenia, most teachers and schools prefer to use British textbooks. There is also an increasing tendency to use the so-called "European English", whatever that means. However, the pronunciation is generally much more influenced by the American English, probably due to the strong influence of American popular culture (films, music, etc.).
     

    rsweet

    Senior Member
    English, North America
    I found this comment interesting and probably deeper than the fact that the United States is farther away from Germany than England is. When I learned French in California, I was taught a French accent, not a French Canadian accent. Canada is much closer to me than France. Do American schools think the accent in Québec as "nonstandard"? Do schools assume that students learn French to visit France and not Canada? Or is it hard to find teachers with a québeçois accent? Interesting question.
     

    Mishe

    Senior Member
    Slovenian
    I found this comment interesting and probably deeper than the fact that the United States is farther away from Germany than England is. When I learned French in California, I was taught a French accent, not a French Canadian accent. Canada is much closer to me than France. Do American schools think the accent in Québec as "nonstandard"? Do schools assume that students learn French to visit France and not Canada? Or is it hard to find teachers with a québeçois accent? Interesting question.

    Interesting question. I studied French for several years and also asked myself this question a couple of times, but I've never heard Francais Quebecois being taught as a second/foreign language in any country. Seems like French is a rather "centralist" language, but I could be wrong.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    Interesting question. I studied French for several years and also asked myself this question a couple of times, but I've never heard Francais Quebecois being taught as a second/foreign language in any country. Seems like French is a rather "centralist" language, but I could be wrong.
    Yes, to the point that TV/radio in Canada tries to approximate the French standard. An example of change is that until the 1960's Canadian French had a rolled r which was the original northwest France r transmitted there during colonization in the 17th century. With more audiovisual exposure to France, and education in standard French, the uvular r is imitated and is starting to replace the rolled r. In general, European French is not considered foreign, just a more formal version of local French.
     
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    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    Yes, to the point that TV/radio in Canada tries to approximate the French standard. An example of change is that until the 1960's Canadian French had a rolled r which was the original northwest France r transmitted there during colonization in the 17th century. With more audiovisual exposure to France, and education in standard French, the uvular r is imitated and is starting to replace the rolled r. In general, European French is not considered foreign, just a more formal version of local French.
    This used to be true (French Canadian TV in the 50s and 60s used wholly artificial French accents). It isn't anymore.
     

    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    China is a country takes language education very seriously. Our government standardizes every element in our mother language through unified textbooks, official dictionaries and strict exams. So, it's only natural they wouldn't allow both British and American English being taught randomly in schools. To prevent the mess, our textbooks were only written in British English.
     

    涼宮

    Senior Member
    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    Pronunciation-wise for your average Mandarin speaker British English should prove easier to pronounce.

    In Venezuela things can be weird, but American English tends to win. Despite the Venezuelan government being at odds with the US and always speaking ill of them and passing that hatred down to its followers AmE tends to be what most people (the few who speak anyway) speak. Some books use British English but in the end even teachers use American English. However, we have some people who try their darnedest to learn and speak British English because they believe it's the ''one and true English'', but end up miserably failing anyway because American English is everywhere they go, books, films, music, Internet, etc. :D
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    but end up miserably failing anyway because American English is everywhere they go, books, films, music, Internet, etc. :D
    I think in music the position of British English is still good, if we speak about rock music (from Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones to Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and others), and Northern English accents are well positioned (all the above metioned bands except Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones are from the "North", i.e from Birmingham to Scotland).
     

    Mishe

    Senior Member
    Slovenian
    I think in music the position of British English is still good, if we speak about rock music (from Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones to Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and others), and Northern English accents are well positioned (all the above metioned bands except Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones are from the "North", i.e from Birmingham to Scotland).
    Yeah, but hardly anyone sings in British English accents/dialects.
     

    Mishe

    Senior Member
    Slovenian
    95 per cent of the time, you won't be able to tell where someone's from when they sing (at least, I can't).
    Unless, of course, they make a conscious effort to do so.

    It has always been obvious that bands like Oasis sing in their native accent.

    Sinead O'Connor, for example, has also made a conscious effort not to sing in this generic Americanlike accent and nowadays it's very clear she's Irish when you her her singing.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Yeah, but hardly anyone sings in British English accents/dialects.
    Really?
    I often listen to Arctic Monkeys (from Sheffield) or The Wombats (from Liverpool) and there are some clear features, the most audible is the pronunciation of /æ/ like the Italian /a/ (clearly central) or, in the case of Liverpool (and Manchester), the pronunciation of the "g" in the final "ing" and that of /ʊ/ very open, like a Spanish [o̞] (a bit more advanced/central) and a very open /ɛ/.

    Listen, for example, to "Backfire at the Disco" (The Wombats):
    "She took down my number and home address" (very open vowels)
    "It backfired at the disco, she slapped me at the disco" (like Italian /a/).
    "Well it's 3 o' clock and I'm feeling shite"
    "Kill the Director" (The Wombats):
    "So with the angst of a teenage band (central /a/ also before nasals)
    "Here's another song about a gender i'll never understand" (central /a/ and /g/ pronunciation in "song")
    "Here's another song about a gender i'll never understand" (central /a/ and /g/ pronunciation in "song")

    There is the same central /a/ in Arctic Monkeys songs.
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    British singers invariably pronounce "dance" as something near to "dence", American style, while no British regional pronunciation remotely approaches this.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    British singers invariably pronounce "dance" as something near to "dence", American style
    Listen to "Dancing Shoes" and "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" (Arctic Monkeys):
    "Get on your dancing shoes" (first sentence of the first song)
    "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" (refrain of the second song)
    In these songs there are not American style pronounciations of "dance".
    The same for "Let's Dance to Joy Division" (The Wombats).
     

    Stoggler

    Senior Member
    UK English
    It does seem to vary depending on style of music and the group/artist(s) in question. More poppy and dance tracks have a more mid-Atlantic pronunciation as a rule for example. But as others have pointed out, there are a number of British bands who eschew such "affectations".

    You could always listen to The Wurzels or Chas n Dave if you want pukka British pronunciation... :D
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    It does seem to vary depending on style of music and the group/artist(s) in question. More poppy and dance tracks have a more mid-Atlantic pronunciation as a rule for example. But as others have pointed out, there are a number of British bands who eschew such "affectations".
    Bono comes to mind. :rolleyes:
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    I've noticed for a long time that British pop or rock singers usually sing in American accents and wondered why. It's true there is a huge financial incentive to market to American audiences. Adele and Amy Winehouse come to mind just off the top of my head.

    By the way, whatever accent Mika is trying to do, he sounds just awful. I can't stand hearing him.

    Lily Allen's Cockney brogue sounds pretty shocking also. :)
    Mishe said:
    It has always been obvious that bands like Oasis sing in their native accent.
    Really? For a long time I didn't even know they were British.
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    On the contrary I love Northern English accents (Scousie, Mancunian, Yorkshire).
    Also American accents are good.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    The Proclaimers' Scottish accent is fun.
    :thumbsup:

    Probably I like these accents because I like those bands.
    But, from a phonetic point of view, they seem more similar to Italian vowels.
    No difference between flat and broad "a" (with only an open central "a"), a schwa-like "but" vowel, generally one quality (with length difference) for "bot" and "bought" vowels, a mid "o" quality for the short "u" (very open, more easily differentiated with the long "u") and so on (a system which is very similar to that of the Canadian accent, which is rhotic). I'm speaking of the accents (not of the dialects).
     
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