Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Challenges of speaking a different language- English that is...

Brett and I were keen to move to London due to the big city life, close proximity to mainland Europe and most of all... that they speak the same language as us! Or so we thought....

95% of our languages are the same, however there have been a few instances where both parties are waving the white flag of defeat because neither of us can understand each other.

The other day, I tried to ask for salmon on my salad- the waitress and I went back and forth three times before we realized we were having communication problems, at which point I did my best Queen Elizabeth II impersonation, stuck my nose up and prestigiously pronounced "salmon" the way a Brit would.  The link below has both the UK and the US versions of this word. Same thing for tomato and zed (for the letter z). Don't even get me started on the pronunciation for zebra.

Our vowels are harsher than the British, therefore our speech at times can be unrecognizable, especially when speaking to people where English is their second language and they learned British English. Similar to Americans learning Latin American Spanish verse Spanish Spanish.

Growing up in America, I always had these preconceived ideas of what the English were like. Most of these notions came, I'm sure, from Mary Poppins. Before moving over here, I didn't believe the Brits would say things like: "... skip to the loo", "Jolly good", "Top of the morning", "Bloody hell", "Cheerio", ect. ect. ect. Because it was so stereotypical English! But guys, I have heard them all! And every time I hear someone use the term "Blimey!", I get overjoyed thinking that Austin Powers was an accurate reflection of the English.

If you recall, I worked at a butcher shop temporarily before finding my permanent job in the city. And due to the grotesque nature of the business, I was sometimes shocked by what I saw in the butcher shop. Do you know what phrases this well educated and sophisticated American (gag) taught these English blokes? "Oh. My. God" and "Holy crap". It's like when the English first encountered the Native Americans and blessed them with smallpox. To this day, when I walk into the butcher shop, the guys greet me with a cheerful "Oh my God, it's Mary! Holy crap!"

I created a quiz on Sporcle (a quiz and trivia website- or what I like to call, senior year of college) to demonstrate some of the differences I experience between UK English and US English on a daily basis. Have a go at it if you are bored, and let me know how you did! The link is attached below.

Link below:
Can you pick the US equivalent to the UK word? - Sporcle Games & Trivia

Cheers/ Ta- Mary


  1. I've taught my British friends "y'all" and it is incredibly funny!! And oh my god...and it's always embarrassing to hear them imitate me!!!

    1. That's amazing that your British friends have absorbed some of your culture from back home. I bet they sound really southern when they say it, jk! Thanks for reading Jamie. Did you take the quiz? Did you know most of the answers?

  2. I was very stuck on dessert since pudding wasn't on the list :-/ but I'm ashamed to say that two years in the UK hadn't been long enough to learn all of the differences :-(

    1. The form of dessert- spotted dick always startles me when I see it in the grocery store!

  3. This is hilarious, Mary! And so true. Add the noisiness of a bar, and understanding each other is near impossible!