You are one step closer toward your goal of learning English – but what type of English are you looking to learn? There are British English (also commonly referred to as the Queen’s English), Australian English, Canadian English, don’t forget American English, and many others.

Types of English Dialects

Obviously, the many dialects are not so different that they are unrecognizable — when you put a British and American together, they can communicate just fine. However, you will start noticing subtle differences like the pronunciation, idiomatic expressions, slang, and vocabulary.

If this was not complicated enough, you will also notice that there are regional dialects within countries. For example, someone from Alabama traveling to Minnesota will find that they have a distinct dialect. In fact, there are at least four major regional differences spoken in the US:

  • Western English
  • Midland English
  • Southern English
  • Northern English
noun, often attributive \ˈdī-ə-ˌlekt\'
a form of a language that is spoken in a particular area and that uses some of its own words, grammar, and pronunciations
Webster's Dictionary

You will also notice different dialects in British English such as in the United Kingdom, England, Wales, and Scotland. Do you remember the George and Ira Gershwin song called “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” that we discussed in the “English Language Differences Around the World” article?

You say either and I say either, You say neither and I say neither
Either, either Neither, neither, Let’s call the whole thing off.

You like potato and I like potahto, You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto, Let’s call the whole thing off

There is no song that better emphasizes language dialects. The first pronunciation is in American English followed by the British English version. Even though there are many dialects of English found throughout the world, you will find that most English speakers learn British or American English.

Choosing Which Dialect To Study

Choose a commonly spoken form

Our advice is to choose the most commonly spoken form of English used in your desired professional or educational setting. If you are planning to learn English in a foreign country, chances are that you will learn the dialect of that area — so choose not only your country wisely, but the region as well!

Think about any exams you need to take

If you need to take an English language exam to meet your company's or school's requirements, be sure to find out what exam you will be taking and what dialect of English the test will be in. If you are going to be taking the TOEFL, which is primarily a US-based test, you will want to concentrate on American English. Contrarily, if you will be taking the IELTS, British or Australian English will be your main focus. Many exams will want consistency, so just make sure that you follow the same dialect throughout the entire length of the exam.

Decide based on the school you’ll be enrolling in

As a student of English, you will find that many institutes will already teach a particuar form of English. You will find British or US language schools around the world with native speakers ready to teach you a particular dialect. Before enrolling, think about:

These are all important questions to ask yourself before learning English. Keep in mind that language is fluid and learning one dialect will help you learn others. In the end, you may find that it does not even matter which dialect you study. If you are in an environment that speaks a different form of English that you initially studied, you will see that overtime your English will change and adapt. That being said, learning English – no matter what dialect – will be an important step in communicating with the world around you!

Subscribe to newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest information