My native tongue as a foreign language…to me

English is English is English, right? Not exactly. English varies from place to place all around the world. In varies even inside the UK itself.

It is curious to me how island nations tend to have a multitude of accents and regional dialects, much more so than a country with a larger landmass such as the US. It is as if being confined to a small space people need to differentiate themselves from one another.

As a regular listener to British radio, I am bombarded with accent after accent, some Welsh, some British, some Scottish—not that I am able to name the accents I hear, I just realize that what I am hearing differs from one another. It’s amusing to notice the cross-play between different countries of English speakers, the “ou” sound in Canada and Scotland, for example.

In addition to the accents and dialects, I routinely encounter vocabulary differences. Like the more southern areas in the US, the British have wonderfully colorful turns of phrases that add spice to English—spice that I think is lacking from our “mainstream” American accent.

On occasion, even the British radio hosts are caught off guard by the vocabulary or idioms used by their brethren elsewhere in the British Commonwealth. The Australian expression “fall off the twig” was a new one to the radio hosts as it was to me. A recent guest used the verb “bimble” when discussing climbing the Himalayas, but when asked, couldn’t recall when he first heard the word or started using it.

Come to think of it, going for a bimble sounds like a perfectly lovely way to spend the afternoon.


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