In Dialects in the United States, English as a Second Language

Dialects in the United States

Depending on where you go in the United States you might wonder if people indeed are speaking English. Dialects in the United States mean there are different “versions” of the same language being spoken depending on what region of the country you may be visiting.

Proper American English is one of the most popular languages in the world both for business and personal affairs. It’s why we have so many students from different countries here in Dallas studying the language. There are also many different benefits to speaking multiple languages including improved memory, opportunities for advancing your career, and an ability to connect with more people around the globe.

Speaking English might seem straightforward once you learn all the spelling, grammar, and pronunciation rules. Wait, straightforward? Just kidding! American English is notorious for being anything but straightforward with changing rules that seem to defy logic!

However, don’t become discouraged. The thing that makes English beautiful is all the interesting variants in the language itself, and the unique cultural identity embodying the language around the country.

What is a Dialect?

Let’s back up and talk about dialects. A dialect is more than just an accent. Accents are the same words, but they may sound different when spoken. Dialects encompass different vernacular (words, grammar, pronunciation, etc.). You can think of a dialect as a different way of speaking the same language.

Dialects in the United States

Some articles reference as many as 24 different dialects in the U.S. Today, we’re going to focus on just a few, perhaps the most well-known ones you may encounter if you’re visiting the United States from another country.

The South

First we’ll start with the SOUTHERN Dialect. After all, Excel English Institute is in the heart of the south in Dallas, Texas. We would consider the “south” to be a broad sweep of states including the southeast – Florida, and Georgia.

Southern English has several distinctive hallmarks and is sometimes casually referred to as a “southern drawl,” because people tend to speak a bit slower and where more words are drawn out as they are pronounced. You’ll hear words like “y’all” (referencing a group, or a contraction of “you all”), and a shopping cart referred to as a “buggy.” The “I” sound will sound like “ah” instead of “eyee” change word pronunciations like “pie” to “pahh.”

Word stresses are often different in English spoken in the southern United States. For example, “Thanks-GIV-ing” typically has the stress on the second syllable, while many southerners place the stress on the first part of the word, “THANKS-giv-ing.”

Dialects in the United States - The South
Dialects in the United States - The South

New England

You may visit Boston while you’re in the United States, and you’ll hear some definite differences from other parts of the country. New England could really be considered (for the purposes of this article) New York, New Hampshire, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey just to name a few states, but there are absolutely many distinctive elements within each of these areas as well.

To broadly define the New England dialect, we look at the letter “r,” which is often replaced with the sound “ahh.” Instead of the word “park” you might hear the word “paaaahk” and wonder if you heard correctly. You did. You’ll hear New Yorkers often refer to their city as “New Yawk” – again, correct.

One phrase unique to New England, and perhaps the most well-known, is “ayuh,” which typically means “yes.”

Dialects in the United States - New England
Dialects in the United States - New England

Chicago/Great Lakes

You may be in the northern Midwest of the United States if you here people say “the” as “da” or “this and that” replaced with “dis or dat.” Instead of “soda”, carbonated beverages like Coke or Pepsi are “pop” in the upper Midwest.

Dialects in the United States - Chicago / Great Lakes
Dialects in the United States - Chicago / Great Lakes

Dialects Around the World

The United States is certainly not the only nation with many dialects. Take India, with the Hindi language, for instance. There are 48 recognized dialects in India!

If there’s one thing we can learn about languages, it’s that the learning never stops. You may even become a fluent English speaker, but the process of learning about the culture and how it ties to language in different areas of the same country is one experience you are never truly finished with. We only scratched the surface of the dialect conversation today, but there is lots to know! Perhaps the best way to learn about dialects is to experience them – by visiting one new place at a time.

Interested in learning more about the English language? If you’ve got a language goal, we want to help you meet it. Check out our Intensive English program today!

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