The English language is an Anglo-Saxon dialect that has been enriched by the influence of Latin, Old Norse and Norman French. During the days of the British Empire, the language also absorbed words from India, South Africa and North America. Today, English contains more than a million words, including words from more than 50 languages.

Within England, there are many regional differences in the use of English. People from Northern England, the Midlands, East Anglia, the Southwest and the Southeast not only pronounce words in distinct ways, but use words that are not used in other areas. For example, in Lancashire, people may say "gradely" when they mean "good" or "very." In Yorkshire, older people may still use "thou" to mean "you," and the word "the" is shortened simply to "t", as in "t'road." There are even a few speakers of Cornish, a Celtic language, in Cornwall.

East End Londoners, or Cockneys, invented rhyming slang. A friend or mate is a "china plate," a flight of stairs is "apples and pears," feet are "plates of meat." Sometimes these expressions are further shortened, so that gloves, or "turtle-doves" in rhyming slang, are called "turtles," while a hat is called a "titfer"(short for tit-for-tat). Another type of London slang is back slang, in which the letters in a word are reversed; for example, a boy is a "yob."

Over the years, attempts have been made to standardize pronunciation and vocabulary throughout England. In the late 19th century, schools taught "Received Pronunciation," using the speech patterns common in the southeastern counties. In 1926, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) formed an advisory committee to ensure uniform pronunciation and vocabulary on the airwaves. Today, differences of pronunciation and vocabulary are less extreme, but they are still noticeable.

   Did you know?
Visitors to England often struggle to pronounce local place names and surnames correctly. For example, Barnoldswick is pronounced "Barlick," Cholmondeston is "Chumson," Trottiscliffe is "Trosley," and the surname Featherstonehaugh is "Fanshaw."
About 3% of British people have South Asian backgrounds. Many of these people speak another language in addition to English, such as Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali or Gujarati.

  Canadian British
  Ballpoint pen   Biro
  Drugstore   Chemist
  Elevator   Lift
  Flashlight   Torch
  Garbage can   Dustbin
  Gasoline   Petrol
  Highway   Motorway
  Running shoes   Trainers
  Sweater   Jumper
  Truck   Lorry