Language vs. Dialect Vs. Accent: Learn the Differences

Learning Jan 19, 2024

When you begin to learn a new language, you quickly start to realise that there is more to the language than simply learning to speak and read it.

Every language has a dialect and an accent which means that even you have at least one dialect and accent. Let us have a closer look at what the differences are.

What is a language, dialect, and accent?

We all know and understand that language is how people communicate with each other whether it be verbally or in writing

Language is essential for communication, and it helps build relationships and communities. Did you know, there are currently 7000 different languages worldwide?!

You might have heard of dialect before but never quite understood what it meant.

In simple terms, dialect refers to a unique and special way people form a specific place or group talk. Think of dialect as having your own way of saying and using certain words.

Here is an example to help you better understand: Someone from Northern America might greet you by simply saying “Hello”, while someone from Southern America would greet you by saying “Howdy”.

More examples of different dialects are:

  • In the Southern United States, they say “y’all” instead of “you all”
  • When visiting America, the word “biscuit” is used when referring to a cookie. However, in the UK when you use the word “biscuit” it refers to a sweet, baked good
  • In Australian English, “fair dinkum” is a common dialect used when you want to say something is genuine
  • When I hear the word “lime”, I think of citrus. However, in the Caribbean, the word “lime” is used as a verb to describe socialising or spending time with friends – “I am going to lime at the park with my friends after school.”

In this video, Language of Earth is showing you the differences between American English, British English, and Australian English.

Now, most people understand that an accent is how you sound when you speak. When travelling around the world you will quickly notice that the natives have their own way of talking – their accent.

There are two types of accents:

The first is a ‘foreign accent’. People who have a foreign accent speak one language while using some rules and sounds of another. This is why it can be difficult to understand what someone is saying when they have a foreign accent. 

The second is your ‘native language accent’. People from a certain region, ethnicity, or social group speak and pronounce words in a certain way.

Why you have an accent in a foreign language

Ever wondered why it's so hard to sound like a local when you go on holiday? Discover the pronunciation tips your teachers may have missed.

What is the big difference between Dialect and Accent?

The biggest difference is that a dialect is the unique way someone from a specific group or place talks using different words, grammar, and pronunciation of certain words.

An accent is simply the way a person pronounces words in another language using rules from their native language. 

A good example would be someone from Italy speaking English with an Italian accent.

When you peel back the different layers of language you can learn many new and fascinating things, such as the difference between language, dialect, and accent. 

Learning to understand the different dialects and accents can help you better understand a language. And don’t forget to embrace your own dialect and accent wherever you go!

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