One would think coming to the UK, an English speaking country, it would be easy to communicate with the locals. Well, was I quite wrong. 8 weeks into my study abroad experience, I still have trouble understanding the accent and dialects of the UK. In most cases, I can understand the locals of London and communicate just fine. Because London is such a big city, there are so many dialects of English spoken and deciphering what someone is trying to tell sometimes can be a challenge. I encounter this in all parts of the city. Along with these different dialects comes new words and new uses of words that I have had to learn in order to communicate effectively. For example, words such as “trousers” mean pants, and “pants” mean underwear. “Taking the piss” means to make fun of someone, and it is a bit shocking when a local starts “taking the piss” at you. Despite the challenges, it has been fun learning the different words and phrases that the Brit use. Also, London is such a multicultural city and there are so many languages spoken that there can be a foreign language barrier as well. I have noticed this in Central London as well as in the outer boroughs where many ethnic minorities live. Just going to the store to get groceries and asking where things are located can be a challenge. There have been times when I was walking to class in the morning where I have heard four or five languages spoken on the same sidewalk. London really is the world in one city and it has really opened my eyes to different cultures and people.
Alex Yurk is studying abroad in London, England, with the Foundation for International Education (FIE).