The UK has a range of accents that can be confusing for people from elsewhere, whether they’re learning English as a second language or even as native English speakers who can’t tune their ear into unfamiliar words! This time we’re taking a look at Birmingham and the unique twang that is the Brummie accent. Are you ready?
Birmingham is the second-largest city in England with a population of about 1.1 in the city center alone. The wider metropolitan area adds another 3.8 million to the population of this city in the West Midlands. Birmingham has its own airport, and is easily accessible by the motorway network of the U.K. Birmingham also has great connections by train and the coach companies that operate throughout the country.
The Brummie or Birmingham dialect of the British English accent is one of the most recognizable from the United Kingdom. Some make the mistake of thinking all accents throughout the West Midlands are Brummie accents, which you’ll soon learn is not the case if you try to say that to anyone from there! The Brummie accent itself also varies widely across the city.
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If there is one thing consistent about the Brummie accent, it’s the way those who don’t use it look down on it! There is a lot of social snobbery about Brummies and their accent placing them as unintelligent, and makes many portrayals of the Birmingham accident in both media and TV advertising woefully inaccurate.
So if you’re curious to hear the Birmingham accent in the voices of some of your favorite celebrities, here are some people you should look out for. James and Oliver Phelps who played the beloved Fred and George Weasley are probably some of the more memorable names from Birmingham. Another loved character from the Weasley family, as in Molly Weasley, was played by an actress from Birmingham, the wonderful Julie Walters. Martin Shaw, an actor possibly most famous for his lead role as Judge John Deed, also comes from the city. And if you’re a fan of football, all manner of teams have players whose roots are in Birmingham; James Vaughan plays for Bradford City, Daniel Sturridge used to play for Manchester City and Chelsea, and the Latchford brothers have played for Swansea, Birmingham, Everton, and Coventry.
Some accent examples
Okay, so what makes the Brummie accent stand out? We can start with the infamous foot-strut split, where the vowel sounds of these and similar words are pronounced the same. Words like goat also have a distinctive change in their vowel sounds with the vowels coming out more like those in gout. Words like bath, path, and glass for Brummies are like most Northern accents, meaning the vowels are clipped and shorter than those spoken in the south.
A little lingo…
Want to stand out as a true Brummie? Here are some words and phrases particular to the city of Birmingham.
However, you go on to conjugate verbs, first and foremost, forget the use of the word I. We don’t say that here, instead opting for the longer sound of oy.
Want to ask how somebody is? Forget all you know of asking someone how are you. In Brummie speak, the correct inquiry is owamya?
To cry in Brummie is to bawl, which you might do if you fall over and scrage (scrape) your knee.
For food and drink, any fizzy drink is known as pop, your crusty bread rolls are cobs, and if you’re off to get your dinner, you are going to get your snap.
And finally, we don’t say good evening to everyone in Birmingham, instead, we say good evening, each. If you’re planning the perfect evening in with your people, you might want to get some liquor in — head to the outdoor — the off-license — for some! While you’re there you might hear a bottler on the radio, which is a popular/enjoyable song.
Are you learning English and overwhelmed by the range of accents from English speakers around the world? We can help! Our native-speaking tutors can design a program of study that will suit your level of English and your needs. Drop us a quick inquiry to see how our courses work.