It’s happened to anyone who’s ever studied a foreign language: After spending years tirelessly learning grammar rules, building up vocabulary and listening to conversations in the school’s language lab, you finally visit a country where the language is spoken, and you DON’T UNDERSTAND A WORD! “What the hell?” you ask yourself. “Why do these people sound so funny?”
What we’re often taught in schools is commonly referred by linguists as prescriptive language — the language that people ought to use, which is dictated by a society’s status quo at a given point in time. Most people think of this as the “standard” form of language, and the confusing and seemingly indecipherable gibberish that language learners hear abroad is descriptive language — the language that native-speakers actually use in most informal settings.
Descriptive language varies across different geographical regions, socioeconomic backgrounds and generations, and these wonderful and interesting differences are called dialects. English is no different, and there are many wonderful dialects in America.
Generally speaking, there are seven major U.S. regions that define American dialects, but of course there are many more. Take a listen and let us know which one’s your favorite!
East New England (Spoken in Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut) – http://youtu.be/FZDpx1aLovc?t=5s
New York City (Spoken only in New York City) – http://youtu.be/1hrA9-6o4tI?t=6s
Mid Atlantic (Spoken in Deleware, Maryland, parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania) – http://youtu.be/DWngk32saaY
The North (Spoken in Upstate New York, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illionois and Minnesota, parts of Pennsylvania, North and South Dakota) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIJAAg1Q978
The Midlands (Spoken in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illionois, Indiana, and Ohio) – http://youtu.be/9vV1fzTTuEE?t=41s
The South (Spoken in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia) – http://youtu.be/tpFDNTo4DNg
The West (Spoken in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah) – http://youtu.be/n-5F_7DwPpo?t=6s