Category Archives: language

Languages and Shifting Populations

I have a continuing interest in the various populations that make London home, and how this transforms areas across the city. My area, so close to Southall, unsurprisingly has a large Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi) population, followed by Polish and Somali. But recently I also noticed that my area has a surprisingly large number of French and American families, which is now being reflected in supermarket chains- in the ‘world food’ aisle there is pumpkin filling, 3 musketeers, mac and cheese and Skippy peanut butter! So it was interesting to be reminded of this old article from last year, detailing the main languages spoken other than English across the city. Some are less surprising than others,  small pockets of north London are orthodox Jewish enclaves, so Yiddish would be widely spoken. In east London in Tower Hamlets, home of ‘Banglatown’, Bangali is widely spoken, bookending London with Asian languages. However, I was unaware that Japanese was a major language in Ealing, or Korean in southwest London or Lithuanian in the east along the Thames. With London changing so frequently, especially with the increase in housing prices and the changes in immigration policy, I wonder what the map would look like in a few years?

London Voices

I’d like to think that after five years, I am becoming more attuned to the variety of accents found in London, and to a smaller extent, accents found across the country (though I still get things terribly, hilariously wrong). I’ve started listening to videos and clips of various accents on both sides of the Atlantic, it’s fantastic to hear the diversity in voices on such a small island.  I think a lot of Americans still think of England as having two accents: Cockney and southern posh (maybe this is changing with BBC America), but there is so much more than that. From Liverpool to Northumberland, Yorkshire to Devon, there are so many fantastic voices here, with their own rules, slang and tones. There is also a massive range of American accents, but I think that considering the size of the country, the amount of accents present aren’t nearly as extreme. I also think that with people my age, a flattening of accent is occurring, so we generally tend to sound similar regardless of where we’re from, though obviously there are still certain geographic tics. Here are some links that may be of interest:

Sound clips:

BBC Voice Recordings

British Library Survey of English Dialects


The Queen’s English

A moment with David Mitchell, one of my favourite comedians: