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    • Linguistics and culture

    Understanding dialects in the English language

    By Charlotte Guest
    Reading time: 7 minutes

    Language reflects the diversity of human culture and society. Among its most fascinating parts are dialects, regional or social varieties of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. Dialects are the heartbeat of a language, pulsing with the rich stories, traditions and identities of those who speak them.

    Understanding a language and dialect, and its significance, can enrich the learning experience for language learners, offering a deeper appreciation of a language and its speakers. Dialects are not just variations within a language; they are often considered separate entities, each with its own rich history and cultural significance, highlighting the complexity and diversity of linguistic expression.

    What exactly is a regional dialect?

    At its core, a dialect is a variation of a language spoken by a particular group of people. However, the distinction between dialects and a different language can often be subjective. These variations can occur due to geographical, social class, ethnic, or historical reasons. While all speakers of a language share the same basic grammar rules and vocabulary, those speaking different dialects might use unique words and slang or have distinct pronunciations, highlighting the lack of an objective difference between dialects and languages.

    For instance, British and American English are two dialects of the English language that are mutually intelligible, meaning speakers of either dialect can understand, and be understood, by the other. They share the same foundational grammar and most of the core vocabulary but differ in pronunciation, spelling, and some aspects of vocabulary and idioms. Similarly, within Britain or the United States, there are numerous regional dialects (e.g., Yorkshire English, Southern American English) that further showcase the diversity within a single language. Some of these dialects are considered by their speakers to be distinct languages, emphasizing the complex nature of linguistic identity and classification.

    What is an example of a dialect?

    An example of dialect variation can be seen in the Italian language, which boasts a wide range of regional dialects, showcasing linguistic diversity with multiple dialects spoken across Italy.

    For example, the Tuscan dialect has historically been recognized as the basis for standard Italian, largely due to its use in influential literature. However, other dialects from regions like Sicily or Lombardy vary significantly from Tuscan Italian in terms of pronunciation, vocabulary and syntax, reflecting the diverse cultural landscapes and histories of Italy’s regions.

    Another example of this variation of dialect within a single language is found in the United Kingdom. For instance, the Cockney dialect, originating from London’s East End, is renowned for its rhyming slang and distinct vowel sounds, serving as a prime example of spoken dialects that emphasize the importance of oral tradition. Contrastingly, the Geordie dialect, native to Newcastle and the surrounding areas, boasts an entirely different set of vocabulary, pronunciation patterns, and even grammatical structures, further highlighting the diverse range of spoken dialects within the standard English language.

    What is the difference between a dialect and an accent?

    The distinction between a dialect and an accent is subtle yet significant. An accent relates solely to differences in pronunciation - the distinct manner in which people say words, often influenced by unique speech patterns that can vary significantly across different languages and regions.

    In contrast, a dialect encompasses not only pronunciation and accent but also includes specific grammar and vocabulary. Accents can be a component of a dialect, but dialects offer a broader spectrum of linguistic variety, including lexical and grammatical differences.

    For instance, someone might speak English with a Scottish accent but use the same grammatical structures and vocabulary as an English speaker from London; however, Scots, a variety spoken in Scotland, is considered a dialect (or even a separate, distinct language, by some) because it possesses unique grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

    Why are different dialects important?

    Dialects are more than just linguistic variations; they are windows into communities' cultural and social fabric. They carry with them histories, traditions and the identity of their speakers. Some dialects are even considered 'distinct languages' by their speakers, highlighting the deep cultural significance of these linguistic forms. Learning about dialects, including regional dialects, can thus offer insights into:

    • Cultural contexts: Understanding the dialects of a language, especially regional dialects, can provide language learners with a richer cultural understanding and a more nuanced perspective of the language’s speakers. This exploration into regional dialects reveals the arbitrary distinction between 'standard' and 'nonstandard' dialects, which is often based on social, political, cultural, or historical considerations.
    • Social dynamics: Dialects can reflect social distinctions, historical migrations and contact with other languages, offering clues about social hierarchies, historical conflicts and integrations.
    • Language evolution: Studying dialects reveals how languages change over time, adapting to societies' needs, migrations and innovations.
  • A woman holding a book to her face, reading in a bookstore with shelves of books behind her
    • Just for fun
    • Linguistics and culture

    Fantasy, the English language and Tolkien

    By Charlotte Guest
    Reading time: 6 minutes

    A large number of well-known writers have often created or coined words that are used in everyday English. When you think of authors, prominent figures like Shakespeare may come to mind. He enriched the English language with words like "amazement," "bedazzled," and "fashionable." Charles Dickens introduced "boredom," showcasing his talent for capturing profound human emotions and societal issues in a single word. Lewis Carroll added whimsical words to our lexicon, including "chortle," a delightful mix of 'chuckle' and 'snort.'

    But Tolkien is another one of those authors who has added to the English language's colorful dictionary. Tolkien did not just create worlds; he also enriched our language, adding a lexicon that elicits the smell of mead in crowded halls and the sight of smoky mountains veiled in mystery. Language enthusiasts and fantasy fans alike join us on this philological adventure as we uncover the words that J.R.R. Tolkien, the mastermind behind Middle-earth, either coined or brought into the limelight.

  • Students sat outdoors writing in notepads smiling
    • Technology and the future
    • Linguistics and culture

    Why learning a language is better than using machine translation

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 7 minutes

    As technology and AI translation tools continue to advance, it's becoming increasingly tempting to rely on them for language-related tasks. However, this can potentially undermine motivation to learn a new language when technology seems to offer a shortcut. While machine translation can be helpful, it also has its limitations. 

    Learning a language goes beyond just communication; it opens the door to different cultures, mindsets, and perspectives of the world. Machine translation, despite its efficiency, cannot replicate the cultural immersion that comes with learning a language. Spoken language nuances, idiomatic expressions, cultural references, and implicit rules that are second nature to native speakers are often lost in translation. Let's delve deeper into why learning a language is better than solely relying on machine translation.

  • Man and a woman stood together smiling
    • Linguistics and culture
    • Just for fun

    6 more strange English phrases explained

    By Steffanie Zazulak

    In a previous blog, we shared some strange English phrases that might have left you with some questions. The English language is full of peculiar phrases that can even confuse fluent speakers. In today's post, we'll take a look at a few more such phrases to help you expand your repertoire.

  • A man with a headset sat at a laptop, with mini flags by him.
    • Linguistics and culture

    What is the hardest language to learn?

    By Pearson Languages

    It's incredible to know that there are thousands of languages spoken across the world, each with its unique set of challenges for learners. A question that often pops up is: "Which language is the hardest to learn?". Today we take a closer look at this question and consider different factors that make learning a language challenging.

  • Children walking in a neighbourhood wearing costumes
    • Linguistics and culture

    10 creepy cryptids you should know about

    By Charlotte Guest

    Cryptids are creatures that are often unseen and mysterious. They are shrouded in legends and stories that have been passed down for generations, making them a fascination for humans for centuries. If you're looking to add a little more creativity to your story writing, learning about these elusive beings can be a great way to do so. In today's post, we'll take a closer look at some examples of cryptids, to get your imagination racing.

    What are cryptids?

    Cryptids are mythical creatures or beings whose existence cannot be proven by science. Some may claim to have seen them but there's usually no solid proof of the encounter. They exist in folklore, mythology and urban legends. Cryptids can be found in cultures all around the world, from the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland to the Chupacabra in Latin America.

    Here are ten cryptids you'll want to learn about this Halloween:


    The Barghest is a ghostly black dog cryptid that appears in the folklore of Yorkshire and Lancashire. It is often associated with misfortune, and sightings of this ominous creature continue to be reported.


    The Owlman is a humanoid creature with owl-like features such as red eyes, wings and feathers. Sightings of this mysterious creature have been reported around the village of Mawnan Smith in Cornwall, adding an eerie twist to local legend.

    The Kraken

    The Kraken is a legendary sea monster of gigantic size and octopus-like appearance, said to dwell in the deep sea and feasting on ships that are unfortunate enough to come across it. 

  • Woman and a child sat outdoors reading
    • Linguistics and culture
    • Language learning

    How to understand – and use – English oxymorons

    By Jeanne Perrett

    If you had to explain what an oxymoron is, what would you say? And would you know how to use one correctly? You might even be using oxymorons already completely by accident. After all, how many times have you talked about a “small crowd”, described someone as a “big baby” or gossiped about an “open secret”?

    Let’s explain more about the term. An oxymoron is a figure of speech where two words of opposed or contradictory meaning are used together to create emphasis. While some oxymorons are created by accident – such as “small crowd” – sometimes they are used deliberately to draw attention to something or to create drama for the reader or listener. Let’s take a closer look at some popular English oxymorons and get to the bottom of what they actually mean.

  • A woman sat at a laptop with a headset smiling, with a bunch of mini flags on the desk next to her
    • Linguistics and culture

    Unlocking the power of multilingualism: Celebrating European day of languages

    By Pearson Languages

    Language is not only a tool for communication but also a means to explore and comprehend diverse cultures, traditions, and perspectives. Europe, with its vast array of languages, is a prime example of this linguistic diversity. Each year on September 26th, Europe observes the European Day of Languages, which is a day solely dedicated to celebrating and embracing this linguistic richness.

    Europe is a magnificent tapestry of languages, with over 200 spoken throughout the continent. This diversity is a symbol of the rich cultural heritage of each nation and reminds us of the intricate historical, social, and linguistic elements that mold our identities. The European Day of Languages inspires people to cherish and honor this linguistic heritage.

    Why September 26th?

    September 26th marks an important date for celebrating linguistic diversity and promoting multilingualism. This day commemorates the adoption of the "European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages" by the Council of Europe in 1992, a crucial document that recognizes and safeguards the linguistic rights of minority languages spoken within European countries. By celebrating the European Day of Languages on this date, it renews our commitment to supporting the rich diversity of languages and cultures that make our world a more vibrant and fascinating place.

    What type of events happen?

    Language Exchanges

    The European Day of Languages offers language learners a chance to participate in language exchanges, which is an exciting opportunity. During such exchanges, learners from diverse backgrounds partner up and teach each other their native languages. This not only helps improve language skills but also promotes intercultural understanding.

    Language Workshops

    Various European cities offer language workshops led by enthusiasts and experts, providing an introduction to different languages.

    Multilingual Storytelling

    Storytelling is an incredibly effective tool for learning languages. Libraries, schools, and cultural centers hold multilingual storytelling sessions, where stories from different cultures are shared in their original languages. This helps both children and adults to better understand and appreciate the beauty of linguistic diversity.

    Film Screenings

    Cinema provides a wonderful opportunity to explore different languages and cultures. Throughout Europe, foreign films are often shown with subtitles, enabling viewers to fully immerse themselves in new linguistic worlds.

    Cultural Exhibitions

    Museums often showcase exhibitions highlighting the linguistic and cultural heritage of various regions, providing insight into the history and traditions of different languages.

    Language Cafés

    Cafés and restaurants might offer special menus featuring diverse cuisines and multilingual staff – a delightfully tasty way to explore languages and cultures.

    Games and Competitions

    Language-based games and competitions, such as crossword puzzles and spelling bees, are organized in schools and communities to provide a fun and educational way to celebrate language.

    If you are a teacher hoping to celebrate this occasion make sure to check here for ideas on what to do.

    Check out what events are happening near you here.

    Just like the European day of Languages, we at Pearson Languages are fully committed to empowering and celebrating language learners and educators alike. That's why we are now supporting French, Italian, and Spanish language learning with the Global Scale of Languages (GSL). With these new language learning frameworks at your fingertips, you can confidently design curriculums and personalize learning pathways to help fast-track your learners’ progress and help your learners be themselves in French, Italian and Spanish.

    Whether you're a teacher, a language learner, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of languages, the European Day of Languages and the GSL provide exciting opportunities to explore, learn, and enjoy the rich tapestry of Europe's linguistic heritage.

    Find out more about the Global Scale of Languages

  • teenage boy studying with headphones on and  with a laptop
    • Linguistics and culture

    Why should I learn English?

    By Pearson Languages

    English is the second most widely spoken language – it is estimated that nearly two billion people worldwide can speak English at a useful level. That means they can hold a conversation with other English-speaking people.

    A report by the British Council attests the importance of the English language to the world, and says that second-language English speakers far outnumber fluent English speakers. It also recognizes how being able to speak English can give individuals a competitive edge over others. If you're asking the question, "Why should I learn English?", read on to find out more...