Translating English to English: The Many Dialects within UK
A new search engine based in the U.K. allows searchers to type their queries in using a variety of English dialects from the interior U.K.
If they do acknowledge some accents, it’s usually about three, and they assume a clear class distinction between them (the Queen’s accent obviously being the upper crust, with a sort-of Cockney thing going on for the poor folks). Not many people who haven’t lived in or travelled to the U.K. seem to imagine that there might be more than one standard Irish accent, and certainly the issue of dialects never comes up. This is different with Americans, where the world is exposed to the different accents and dialects through film, television and music. As an example, imagine a film where a tough New York gangster spoke with an Alabama drawl, or a Texas cowboy spoke with a Boston accent.
But anyone who has spent any time in the U.K. outside of London knows that the interior of the country is simply brimming with dialects, most of them quite colourful.
The Pronto Experiment
Travel company Lastminute.com has launched a search engine called Pronto that plays up this interesting aspect of U.K. life. Supposedly Pronto allows folks who speak some of the major interior dialects like Scouse or Geordie (these are forms of English, keep in mind) instead of the ‘Queen’s English.’ It’s obviously a publicity stunt, and it’s working, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s actually kind of educational if you’re unaware of these dialects in the first place. If you take a look at some examples you’ll find it a little startling at how different some of these dialects are!
Here’s a few good examples courtesy of The Telegraph in the U.K (keeping in mind it’s far easier to decipher these in writing than it is to hear them spoken – trust me):
Scouse (a Liverpool dialect): Ello der, la, ay wanna boss ’otel in Dublin for two nights termorra. Translation: I’d like a fantastic hotel in Dublin for two nights tomorrow.
Geordie (Newcastle): Howay man! Aa’d leik te gan bi plane te John F. Kennedy Airport, pet. Translation: I’d like a flight to John F. Kennedy Airport tomorrow.
Mancunian (Manchester): Ay-up! A wanna bitta scran t’morra at a curry house for two avin’ it large in Brick Lane. Translation: I’d like a table for two at an Indian restaurant in Brick Lane.
Dialects of course are used increasingly to define a local area and exclude outsiders. You often find that locals are perfectly capable of slipping in and out of their regional dialect at will, and use it heavily when they don’t like you or don’t know you, and ease off it when you become more familiar to them. As such, dialects are fascinating – and well worth studying.
Pronto is a fun way to start!
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