Learn British English Today | Rosetta Stone®
Learn British English, explore British English words, and learn why there’s no such thing as British accents.
British English

British English

If you’ve decided to take English lessons , it makes sense to decide which kind of English to learn. Like many other languages around the world, English differs depending on the region where it is spoken. British English is the English language dialect spoken in the United Kingdom. Many variations of British English exist, including versions in Scotland, Ireland and Yorkshire whose accents and vocabulary can differ remarkably.

Learning to speak British English is more complicated than studying vocabulary specific to the United Kingdom and learning how to affect a British accent. Whether you’re at a tea party in Yorkshire or chatting up a Cockney shopkeeper in London, you’ll want to sound like a local. Speaking British English easily in conversations means committing to immersive lessons that get beyond memorization and build your confidence for the real world.

Rosetta Stone understands that true confidence comes from speaking the language, not just the words. That’s why our British English lessons focus on teaching vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation in context so you’ll actually remember what you learn. And because life is mobile, we’ve designed bite-sized British English lessons that go where you go, so you can learn anytime and anywhere.

Learn British English

Often, English is thought of as a homogenous language but there are quite significant differences in the English spoken in America, versus English dialects in the United Kingdom or even Australia. British English itself has been influenced by several different waves of invasion throughout history, including Germanic spoken by Scandinavian invaders and then later Norman conquerors who produced a mixture of the language later referred to as Anglo-Norman.

In fact, many scholars agree that American English itself may be closer to Old English than the English currently spoken in the United Kingdom. Many variations of British English are dominated by slang and regional influences and accents can produce dramatic differences. Most locals think of British English as four distinct groups: English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish. However, each group can be broken down further into regional accents like Cockney or Yorkshire. A standardized version of British English, sometimes referred to as the Queen’s English , is English spoken with more careful enunciation and attention to grammar.

When you learn British English with Rosetta Stone, you’ll be immersed in a learning environment that relies on audio and visual cues to cement concepts and contextualize your learning. Your first lessons in British English will not only teach you common greetings and phrases, but get you practicing grammar and pronunciation as you recall, repeat, and apply what you’ve learned. Your British English lessons scale gradually, so you’ll have time to review and build confidence before you move onto the next concept.

Learn British English

British Accents

What many think of as a distinct British accent varies widely across the United Kingdom. British accents in Scotland or Ireland may be virtually unintelligible to those from Wales or London. Regional slang also differs wildly from one place to another. Only about 2% of Britons speak with an accent referred to as Received Pronunciation, which is the accent you might hear on the BBC and is referred to as the Queen’s English .

Among British accents, Cockney is considered one of the more difficult to understand. This accent most commonly found in East London has a rhythmic intonation and a wide variety of slang that can be difficult for foreigners to understand. Accents in London have also been more recently influenced by Caribbean speech to a large flux of immigration to the UK from that region. However most Brits report they swing or variate their accent in order to make it more accessible to foreign speakers.

Practicing your British English pronunciation is key to developing the kind of British accent that will give you confidence interacting with locals. That’s why Rosetta Stone’s speech recognition engine TruAccent is embedded into every lesson, on standby to provide feedback on your pronunciation until you can say it like a local. This technology enables you to practice without a partner behind closed doors so you can dial-in your British accent and hold your own in real-world conversations across the pond and around the world.

British English vs. American English

There are differences in grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary between American and British English . Here are just a few of the things you’ll discover differentiate the English spoken on the American continent versus what’ll you’ll hear in the United Kingdom.

1. British English vocabulary

When you explore British English, you’ll find hundreds of words that have different usage than American English. For example, in the United Kingdom a “bonnet” is the hood of a car while in America it’s old-fashioned headwear. If you’d like to rent a flat in London, you’re not talking about buying shoes without heels but rather leasing an apartment.

2. British English pronunciation

In most areas of Britain, the consonant “R” is not pronounced unless it’s followed by a vowel but that’s just one of many differences you’ll find between British and American English pronunciation. There are also changes in the pronunciation of vowels, specifically long vowels, depending on whether you’re speaking British English in Northern or Southern England.

3. British English grammar

There are some differences in verb tenses and forms in British English, especially in relation to collective nouns. In British English collective nouns can have verbs that are either singular or plural. There are also some differences in which verbs are preferred. American English speakers use “gotten” rather than “got” as the British do, but you’re much more likely to find Brits saying “shall” than Americans.

4. British English Word Spelling

One of the things that throws some beginning English speakers off is not the differences in pronunciation but the differences in spelling in British English. For example, the word “color” in American English would be spelled “colour” in British English or “theater” as it’s known on Broadway would be spelled “theatre” in London.

British English Words

Because English is spoken all over the world, you’ll find variations from continent to continent. This is largely due to the influence of other languages and how English has developed in the region. There are over 160 distinct dialects of the English language each with their own spelling and vocabulary that can vary greatly from places as far flung as Australia to Canada.

In British English, some of the differences in word spelling are a result of interaction with the Old French language. When you see Americans refer to something with “humor,” versus the Brits replying with “humour,” that’s the result of French influence over British English versus the simplified spellings that American English adopted.

The following examples of vocabulary frame some of the differences in the British English words that are the lexicon of daily life in the United Kingdom.

  • Sneakers are trainers
  • French fries are chips
  • The trunk of a car is the boot
  • Popsicles are ice lollies
  • Mail is the post
  • An eraser is a rubber
  • A diaper is a nappy
  • The bathroom is the loo

These differences in vocabulary make it vital to learn words in context to avoid confusion. That’s why Rosetta Stone presents vocabulary in the situations in which you’d use British English words, from hailing a taxi to ordering at a restaurant. This contextualized learning improves recall and helps you focus on learning the language, not just the words.

British English Words

Benefits of Learning British English

Learning British English has obvious benefits if you’re traveling to the United Kingdom, but there are also many other reasons to learn a new language . English has applications not just for travel but for academic study and career advancement. And whether you choose to learn British or American English, the two dialects share enough similarities that you won’t struggle to be understood no matter where your language learning journey takes you.

Here are just a few benefits to learning British English.

English is widely spoken

When it comes to native speakers, English comes in third as the most widely spoken language , but it’s also considered something of a lingua franca in business, education, and other industries.

The internet speaks English

A majority of the websites and publications that you’ll find on the internet are in English , so if you have a career online, knowing the language is essential.

Travel is easier with English

Large portions of the world speak English, especially as a second language. Not only will you find English speakers in North America, but across Europe more than a third of citizens speak conversational English.

Speaking English can provide a better student experience

If you speak English, it can open possibilities to studying abroad not just in the United States, but also in Australia and the United Kingdom. Some of the most celebrated academic institutions in the world are located in Great Britain, including Oxford.

Try Our Award-Winning App

Surround yourself with English (British) whenever, wherever with the Rosetta Stone app .

Download a unit and knock it out on the train or a flight. Select a 5-10 minute lesson and sneak it in while you wait in line or for your ride to show up. And explore dynamic features, like Seek and Speak, where you can point at an object in the real world and get a translation .

The best part? You don’t have to choose between app or desktop. Both come with your subscription and sync, so you can switch between devices seamlessly.

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