You know it always strikes me how many different accents we have in the UK for such a, on the grand scale of things, small area.
In the US accents vary by state, which can be hundreds, if not a thousand miles apart. In the UK, distances are shrunk. An accent can differ by 25 miles. Yes, as little as 25 miles. I live in Leicester. 25 miles to the north is Nottingham. 15 miles to the west of Nottingham is Derby. 33 miles west of Leicester is a fairly large city called Birmingham. There is a clear distinction between these accents, with the exception of Derby and Nottingham. There is some distinction, but not what I would call a clear distinction.
I don’t know if there is any where else in the world where there could be a change of accent in such a short distance. This blog http://dialectblog.com/british-accents/ gives some samples and a longer explanation of what I am doing a terrible job of explaining and goes into far more details than I am prepared to here.
Trying to explain the differences in accent, from the south up to the north, to a foreigner is also fairly challenging. Sure, I could mimic a Bristolian accent. I could also try a Scottish accent. But that wouldn’t explain how the difference manifests itself. I even tried to explain that although Newcastle and Scotland are fairly close, the accents vary quite remarkably. Does the accent get deeper? More broader? And let’s not even get started on Welsh and Irish accents. I mean, to most of us, they are fairly easy to distinguish. But to someone not from this country?
I’ve met some people in my life who have some fairly different accents. I guess what I mean by different is not what you expect when you look at them. (Yes, stereotyping is a bad thing, but human nature means we do it regardless. It’s part of a safety mechanism). I’ve met two Asians who have Scottish accents. Not the slightest tinge of Indian. The first time I heard it, it was a shock. The second time I nearly fell off my chair. My ‘American friend’, as I call him (a guy I have known since birth) is British by birth and spent most of his time living in the US. Then he came back to the UK where he has now settled with a wife and has lost his American accent almost completely in 20 years. I say almost because last time I spoke to him, there are certain words that still had the American accent. Just a tinge. Then there are some Africans (by birth) that have French accents, and a cleaner (I probably mean a more educated) British accent than I do. It does throw your brain out of kilter sometimes.
You can also watch this YouTube video for a demonstration here.
Just something to ponder tomorrow when you are at work perhaps!