Monday, June 09, 2008

The Seven Most Distinctive Spoken English Language Varieties

Which English is Best?

With English continuing to develop as a principal world language, a question which often arises among EFL learners is, “Which English is best?” It can be confusing to new learners of all ages as to which one of the “Englishes” should be learned or studied. While the answer to this may depend on your needs and location, one consideration is the many varieties of English that exist and are spoken world wide.

Here are Seven Distinctive Varieties of English:

American English
This category of English actually consists of several variations. There are recognizable variations in the spoken English of the South, the Pennsylvania Dutch, the New England region of the U.S., the Midwestern U.S. and the West coast. There is also “Black English” spoken as a distinct racial community variety of English across the USA.

Black English (Ebonics)
You won’t have to go very far to hear this distinctive variety of English. Try the latest Rap or Hip Hop offerings or listen to interviews with black artists for the unique flair this English variety has. Grammar, lexis, idioms, expressions and vocabulary are all impacted by this and other varieties of English.

British English
The origin of English proper, there are “common” variations of English spoken throughout the UK. The “Upper Crust” as it were, used a particular variety of spoken English known as RP or “Received Pronunciation”. RP is what the royal family and those educated at Oxford, Cambridge and other high-level universities were taught to use and speak.

Australian English
No question here, Steve Irwin popularized Australia’s unique wildlife in a way like no other before his untimely, accidental death in 2006. Another character who brought Australian English to the forefront of public knowledge was Paul “Crocodile Dundee” Hogan in a movie and sequel bearing the same name.

Jamaican English
Spoken English in Jamaica has always been an interesting variety for the many travelers, vacationers and visitors to this island. It’s also used in movies, documentaries and films set in Jamaica. Singer Bob Marley also contributed not only his music, but interest in the culture and spoken English variety of Jamaica as have a number of other Reggae music artists.

English Spoken in India
A distinctive variety of spoken English is used in India. The language is taught and applied there as a sort of “lingua franca”, since there are hundreds of regionally and locally spoken languages and dialects across the Indian continent. Hundreds of movies, documentaries and other media are readily available in this variety of English.

Varieties of Pidgins and Patois Spoken in a Number of Locations
There are unique, local or regional varieties of English spoken in a number of countries world wide. Places like Belize, the Philippines, several West Indies (Caribbean) islands like Barbados, Trinidad, the Cayman Islands and both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Guyana (formerly British) in South America and African countries where English is widely spoken, each have their own particular brand of spoken English.

English Language Needs and Location
The question, “which English is best?” usually depends on the needs and location of the EFL learner, especially when one considers the many varieties of English that exist and that are spoken world wide.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 120 countries. Get your FREE E-book,"If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.


Larry said...

On Sat, Jun 14, 2008 at 7:57 PM, Pepper & Joe wrote:

Dear Dr. Lynch,

I might have understood your grouping "Canadian" English in with "American" but to have left it out of the "Seven Distinctive Varieties of English" altogether is unbearable. I personally think "Canadian" English to be the best to teach based primarily on the fact that we describe our society a a "mosaic", as opposed to the American label of "Melting Pot". I really do believe that Canadians are far better equipped, linguistically, than those from any of the other English speaking nations you give recognition as we are not so chauvinistic about our language as are the British and Americans and have incorporated a great deal of the vocabulary and colloquialisms of not just other English speaking countries but, in general, I believe Canadians to be more familiar with foreign languages and more tolerant of accepting of the different varieties of English.

My opinions are not based solely on the fact that I am a Canadian but are also drawn upon from my six years of living, teaching (English) and meeting English teachers from all over the world. I would also like to add that I very much enjoy reading your articles and would like to ask permission to post a few of them to my blog, (I would of course give you full credit for anything I post that you have written) as well as to post links to both your blog and certain of your posts on

Warmest Regards,
Joseph Pilon-Long

Larry said...

Greetings Joseph,

Thank you for your detailed comment. Your points are all well-taken. I debated awhile before deciding which "Englishes" to include on my list of seven. There are far more than seven varieties of English as you're well aware. This is the principal reason why I called the piece seven distinctive varieties without alluding to anything which might cause readers to think that there are ONLY seven. I wanted to briefly illustrate widely distinctive English language varieties with obvious differences even to EFL learners. While I agree that there are differences between Canadian and American Englishes, they are mostly noted by Canadians and Americans and are not necessarily so distinguishable by many others.

Certainly you have permission to re-post from my blog as long as you keep my byline and bio intact.


Prof. Larry M. Lynch

bathmate said...

I liked it.