Need help with British dialects for watching TV series?


Publicado por Sophie

Many of you watch TV series in the English language, which is a great and fun way to improve your listening. That said, several of my students have commented that some of the British dialects, particular forms of language pertaining to different regions and social groups of the UK, can be difficult to understand as, not only are the accents, the ways in which people pronounce English, unusual, but there are many words which aren't used in standard English. Going from north to south of the British Isles, we'll look at some of these tricky dialects in popular series.



In the series Outlander, we find ourselves in the Scottish Highlands. Claire, an English woman, travels back in time to 18th Century Scotland and meets Jamie, Laird of Clan Mackenzie. Together they must fight to retain clan life and against the tyranny of the English. The Mackenzie clan speaks Scottish Gaelic, which is a completely different language in itself. That said, even when the Highlanders in the series speak English, they often use wonderful words and other colourful expressions which you won't find in your average dictionary. Here are some of them:

Ken = know/understand 


D'ye ken? = Do you understand?

A really didnae ken. = I really don't know.

Laird = Lord

Bairn = baby This one is also used in some Northern English dialects.

Wee = little

Braw = brave but can also mean excellent

Clot-heid = cloth-head, idiot

Dinna fash = Don't worry

Canny  In Scottish and Northern English, it means nice, pleasant


She's a canny lass. = She's a nice girl.

Bonnie good-looking


He's a wee bonnie lad! = He's a good-looking little boy! 





Now we've moved to the post-World War I era in Peaky Blinders, set in Small Heath, Birmingham. The ruthless gang The Peaky Blinders is at large, owning the streets of Britain's second city. The Brummie (from Birmingham) speech is a very urban, working class accent which is quite harsh in sound; perhaps one of the reasons why it doesn't normally figure in people's favourite British accents. Nevertheless, the actors, most of them not from Birmingham, do an excellent job of imitating a difficult accent which is rarely heard in TV series. Let's have a look at some unusual words and expressions which form the Brummie dialect.

Bab/babby = babe/baby

Kipper tie = cup of tea

Got a cob on = be in a bad mood


He's got a cob on. = He's in a bad mood. 

Island = roundabout

Tarabit = goodbye

Snap = food

Mucker = friend


Fancy a pint, me old mucker? = Would you like a pint, my old friend?

Go and play up your own end! = Said to children making to much noise.

Going round the Wrekin = A broader Midlands term, meaning going the long way round (the Wrekin is a hill in Shropshire)







Way down south, at the tip of England, we find Cornwall, which is where our final series is set. Captain Ross Poldark, along with his wife Demelza, must battle against social injustices of the day, which arguably still exist in the 21st Century. Although poles apart, similar to Scotland, Cornwall has it's own regional language, known as Cornish; however, this isn't heard in the series. Most likely because by the late 18th Century, when the series is set, the language had become almost extinct. Unlike in Outlander, where the Laird speaks the same local accent and dialect as the rest of the clan, in Poldark, the Cornish accent and dialect is used to distinguish between the social classes. The Poldarks themselves are all very well spoken. Even Ross, who tries to distance himself from his family and the upper classes, is given away by his educated speech. On the other hand, characters like Judd, Trudy and Demelza, as they're of the working class, speak with the Cornish dialect, which is a rich mix of the old Cornish language and English. Here are some examples:

Alright, my 'ansome? = How are you?

I'll do it dreckly = Lo haré mañana (or in other words, as and when I feel like it!)

Proper job = The Cornish/Devonshire stamp of quality. Anything excellent is a "proper job".

Emmet = The Cornish word for "guiris", except they also use it to refer to other English people from outside Cornwall.

Stank = walk

Kiddlywink = An unlicensed beer shop, a kiddlywink was permitted to sell beer or cider but not spirits like traditional taverns and inns. So shopkeepers would keep contraband brandy in a kettle under the counter. The knowing clientele, often smugglers and other disreputable types, would then wink at the kettle when they needed a top up.

Chacking = thirsty


I'm chacking for a cider. I'll be down at the kiddlywink if you need me.

Whist = weak or faint

Piddledowndidda? = Was it raining? Despite all the beautiful sunny days seen in Poldark, the chances are that if you're in Cornwall the answer to this question is "yes."

Giss on! = Don't talk rubbish!

Wasson me cock? = What's up?

Teasy as'n adder = bad-tempered


He's drunk too much cider down at the kiddlywink and now he's teasy as'n adder!

To sum up, there is not one form of English in the UK. As we have seen from examples of just 3 series, British English is in fact a melting pot of dialects and accents which vary greatly from north to south. Even though the series are all period dramas, the accents and dialects are still very much alive today and mark differences in socio-economic backgrounds. Taking all this into account, it's not surprising that English is the language which differs most greatly, in terms of accent and dialect, per sqaure kilometre in the world.

Alright me 'ansomes? If you're chacking for a braw series and want to sound less like an emmet, make yourself a kipper tie and some snap and try watching one of these. Don't get teasy as'n adder though if it's difficult to ken at first. Dinna fash! You have to go round the Wrekin a couple of times to fully master English.  Do it dreckly and make it a proper job, d'ye ken?

Obviously no sane British person would mix all 3 dialects together like this. It's just a little test to see how much of the vocabulary you remember and to show you how it can be used in context. 😊




¿Te ha gustado? Compártelo
Síguenos en
© 2007 - 2019 Tus clases particulares Mapa web: Profesores particulares| Academias y centros