Slang in London – Journal – 22 April 2013

Although the people in London speak English, I still have a hard time understanding what they are saying sometimes. They have a strong accent and use different slang words than I use. At first it was hard to adjust to the British slang. The more I talked to locals, the more I understood. Now I don’t have any problem understanding people in London.

The major difference I have noticed is the speed that Americans and British people speak. Americans tend to talk faster. People that I have met here in London have told me that I speak really fast. One of my friends asked me why I was in a rush to speak. I found that question funny because I think he speaks really slowly. The people here usually take small pauses in the middle of their sentences. They also take longer pauses after each sentence than we do in America. They also emphasize certain words they say. In America we usually speak at the same pace throughout the sentence. Here a lot of people emphasize one word, pause, then continue their sentence. In America when we tell stories, we usually tell it all at one time while people listen. Here they tell a part of the story, wait for a response, and then continue telling the story. The way we have conversations is really different in America.

I have also noticed that the people in London are not as talkative as we are in the US. In America we make a lot of small talk. Here people don’t really do that. People only talk when there is something in particular they want to talk about. The first conversations I had with people were typically shorter than they would have been back home. Back home when I meet someone, we usually talk about random things in order to get to know more about each other. Here they usually ask me a few basic questions. They ask me where I am from, why I am here, and how long I am staying in London.

Although conversation is different, people here are really polite. When I am talking to someone and they notice that I do not understand them, they stop and explain what they mean. A lot of times I teach people American slang and they teach me British slang. The biggest difference in our slang is how we say mother. I say “mom” and here in London people say “mum.” At first I had no idea they meant mother. Little kids walk around saying, “mum” all of the time. It was because of a little kid that I noticed they were saying “mom.” Another big difference is the way we say “no.” I say “no” in about two seconds. Here in London people say “no” slower. It takes them about four seconds to say it.

There are other slang words they use here in London that I do not use back home. In America we say “line.” Here in London they say, “queue.” So instead of saying: “Is this the line for the bathroom?” I have to say, “Is this the queue for the bathroom?” Saying “queue” took a long time to get used to. Now I automatically say, “queue” instead of “line.” In London they use the word “brilliant” a lot. They use it instead of the word “good.” If they really like something they will say, “That is brilliant.” Sometimes I still forget the word means they like something and not that someone is really smart.

I think it is important to make people whose first language is not English to feel comfortable, when they travel to the United States. I know what it is like to feel uncomfortable in a place, because you don’t speak the local language. We should try to help them to understand English. We can start by teaching them words we use every day. I find it helpful to know the most common way to say simple things: Hi, thank you, good-bye, and how much. Those are basic phrases that are used in every language. Speaking more than one language is very useful, because you can communicate with more people. When you travel to distant places where English is not the primary language, it is kind of a disadvantage. Knowing the native language helps you feel like you are a part of the culture. One easy way to start learning a new language is to Google simple words. You can teach yourself the basics of every language.

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