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Understand UK accents per region: Cockney/London

Learning English is a particularly tricky language to learn for all the versions of English you can learn; British, American, Australian, and so on. And that doesn't even take into consideration all the dialects and accents! So here we are, picking these accents apart one at a time trying to get to the more difficult parts of the language and help some English learners out. This time it's the turn of the London accent, Cockney.




Do we really need to tell you about London? The capital of England, one of the most famous cities in the world with some of the most iconic landmarks? We know you know what London is! It is a multicultural city home to some 8.9 million, with the best connections to all the other places in the country by rail, bus, and even domestic flight. London, as the backdrop to so many movies, also exposes the world to one of the most distinctive accents you will find in the U.K. Cockney!


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Cockney accent

So, what is the Cockney accent? You know how in every movie about the U.K., the people portrayed are either wealthy and speak The Queen's English, or not wealthy and speak far rougher? That would be Cockney. Traditionally, those who can claim to speak Cockney must have been born within earshot of Bow Bells, which are the bells of St Mary-le-Bow.



The Cockney accent is the one with all the slang associated with being a Brit; the whole apples and pears thing and just about everything else. The Cockney accent is about the wide-boys (and Del Boys) on the streets of London who are wheeler-dealers and probably going to rip you off—but will have a good heart about it as they do! The Cockney accent is generally the accent of the average working class Londoner.


Photo via Flickr


Famous Londoners

Well. Where do we start? Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Boyega, Hayley Atwell; so many of the U.K.'s most famous people were born in and around London. Though it isn't just movies and TV that will give you a range of famous Londoners. David Beckham, Naomi Campbell, Chris Martin; the list goes on and on!


Hear it for yourself

How about hearing some Cockney accents from regular folk instead of just famous people? Youtube is the answer! Try LetThemTalkTV, or English Like A Native for a little guidance.


Photo via Pixabay


What makes Cockney, Cockney?

The Cockney accent was referred to as early as 1362 in the Piers Plowman poem. This is an old, old accent! Cockney really does involve a lot of rhyming slang, so get used to that before you try to figure it out! In terms of language, the Cockney accent is non-rhotic; this means words ending in a, and er, sound the same. Words with a in the middle like bath and path are pronounced broadly, and double t is often missed out altogether. The th sound typically becomes f, and s often has a more z-like sound. You will also find a lot of words sounding similar that don't sound similar elsewhere — think of war and wore, or saw, sore, and soar as examples.


A little lingo

Okay, so that's enough of the background to Cockney. What about the accent itself? How do you use it? What is distinctive about the Cockney accent that you might not hear elsewhere in the U.K.? Well, maybe get yourself a little booze (drink) to limber up your lips first! Those apples and pears we referred to earlier are simply the stairs; go up them, down them, do whatever you want! We aren't telling you porkies (lies). Lying can get you into Barney Rubble (trouble), after all! We're just here to have a bubble; as in bubble bath — laugh; yes those two words do rhyme, in Cockney. Can you Adam and Eve it (you know… believe!)? Londoners are pretty welcoming, so don't be too worried; just use your loaf (loaf of bread — head), and you'll be just fine!

Do you want to know more about all the accents British English has to offer? Or want some help learning English overall? We can help! Our native speaking tutors can guide you through a tailored package of study that will suit your level, time, and needs. Drop us a quick inquiry to find out more about our courses.