Which dialects of English are easiest for learners?



Choosing from the wikipedia list of English Dialects, which dialects are considered the easiest for learners? And related, which dialects and considered the hardest for learners? For example Received Pronunciation would likely be easier for a learner to understand than Cockney.

This question is meant to be focused on spoken English, the pronunciation and enunciation best suited for learners. Factors to take into account include, but are not limited to:

Mutual Comprehension
Will knowing the dialect make other dialects of English easier or harder to comprehend? (e.g. London Cockney is one example of a dialect which is notorious for being more difficult for English speakers from other areas to understand)
Does the dialect rely on heavy usage of slang specific to that dialect?

Is the pronunciation of each phonic sound distinctive? (can easily hear the difference between sounds)
Is the pronunciation standardized? (not localized to small region, able to use the same IPA for similar spellings)
Are the phonemes of the learners native language more compatible with the dialect?

Pace of Speech
Is the average spoken wpm too rapid to be easily understood?
Are words often "mushed" together? (e.g. "cannaehavit" instead of "can I have it")

If other reasons/factors not listed here influence the answer, please include them with the answer and I will revise this list of influential factors.


Posted 2013-06-10T10:35:40.747

Reputation: 1 991

Question was closed 2013-06-10T18:55:09.270

Which English dialect is easier to learn is highly subjective. I chatted for more than 10 years with a friend of mine who is American. For me, British English is probably more difficult to understand, but that doesn't necessarily apply for other users. – kiamlaluno – 2013-06-10T13:08:04.197

Also, that list of English dialects is too long for somebody to give an answer. Even supposing that there were an objective way to say which English dialect is easier to learn for a non-native speaker, there would not probably be somebody who can give a definitive answer for all those English dialects. – kiamlaluno – 2013-06-10T13:14:55.957

1I think @kiamlaluno is right that determining which is easiest to learn is subjective. However it seems to me like the intent of your post is to make a list, useful for the future, to help learners with different dialects. In that case, why don't you mark this as CW, and modify the question so that instead it asks for what the possible difficulties are that learners might encounter in each particular dialect, or things that might make it easier, and to evaluate the criteria you've listed above? The answer could list each dialect, and be updated as users come along with more info. Thoughts? – WendiKidd – 2013-06-10T13:37:16.497

One criteria could be the available learning material. In my youth all school books based on British English - so I would have problem to learn American English. – knut – 2013-06-10T14:07:44.093

I'm with @WendiKidd on this. Open a CW. – Ken Bellows – 2013-06-10T16:53:03.490

Ken, yes, I deleted the "A", but, in a previous comment, @kiam said "The problem is that non native speakers don't always know what is Standard English, and what not. Considering the differences between American English and British English (for example), the confusion is understandable." – None – 2013-06-10T17:47:54.247

2Different dialects have different features; these features may present challenges to native speakers of some languages, but not to native speakers of other languages. As a result, I think there is no general, objective answer to this question. What is easy for one learner may be difficult for another. – snailplane – 2013-06-10T18:16:44.137

3@WendiKidd: I don't see much point in a CW purporting to identify "easy/hard" dialects. From the point of view of any given native speaker, obviously their own variant is easiest. From any given learner's point of view, the easiest one will be the version that predominates in their particular locale. Any concept of "objective" differences is effectively meaningless, and certainly shouldn't be seen as justification for choosing to learn one dialect over another. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-06-10T18:33:52.293

@WendiKidd Only moderators can make a question a CW ("mod >> convert to wiki"). I don't see the point of making it a CW, since it is not constructive. CWs are not anymore used for borderline questions; or the questions are fine as they are, or they should be closed. – kiamlaluno – 2013-06-10T21:02:00.860

Are English language learners typically at liberty to choose what version of English to learn? – Andrew Grimm – 2013-06-11T09:31:44.973

1@AndrewGrimm : At least here in Prague they are. There are a sufficient number and variety of English teacher that learners can, and often do, specify at least American/British/Australian English. And occasionally they are even more specific than that. – Walter – 2013-06-11T09:36:20.223



@Carlo has deleted his answer which started with the (to me, painfully obvious) point that you should avoid learning any "dialect" if you have a choice, so I'll paraphrase and amplify his position.

Although there's no single thing called Standard English, in any real-world context, you'll almost certainly have only one option easily available to you in an educational context (Standard American English (SAE) in most cases).

It's bordering on meaningless to hope that any one dialectal variation might be "easier to learn" than another. About the only difference that really makes sense is that on average, American spelling is slightly easier because (post-Webster) it's a bit more consistent.

In every other respect, even if there were any objective measures by which one dialect could be considered "easier to learn" (a highly dubious proposition) these would be irrelevant compared to how easy it would be for any given learner to access texts in that dialect.

In short, if you're in an Anglophone country (or one which uses English in "official" contexts), you should learn whatever version the State endorses. And although I don't like to deny my own heritage, I'd have to say if that principle doesn't imply clear front-runner, you should probably choose SAE.

FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica

Posted 2013-06-10T10:35:40.747

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