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Tasks: Standard English – One of Many Varieties of English

Watch and discuss:

David Crystal is an honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor and one of our foremost writers and lecturers on the English language.

In the following three videos, he talks about how the English language became a global language and about the status of different variants of English.

Watch the three short videos before you discuss the questions.

Video 1:

Video 2: David Crystal - Which English? (youtube.com)

Video 3: David Crystal - Should English be taught as a 'global language'? (youtube.com)

  1. How do you understand the expression 'global language'?

  2. According to David Crystal, what has made English a global language?

  3. In your opinion, is one variant of English better than others? For example, is British English more 'proper' than American English or Indian English?

  4. What standardised version of English have you been taught?

  5. Why does he divide language learning into production and comprehension?

  6. According to Crystal, why is it important to expose students do different varieties of English?

  7. Have you ever met English native speakers with accents that have been difficult to understand?

  8. What will happen to English in the future, do you think? Will it continue to be a lingua franca, or will other languages take over?

Find out more:

In the videos with David Crystal, you heard him speak about RP or Received Pronunciation.

Find out what RP is. What other names are there for this kind of English? How has RP developed? What characterises RP? What role has it played in the past? How many people use RP?

Share your findings in class.

Find the mistakes:

Learning the difference between Standard English and the variants of non-standard English that most people speak can be difficult, also for British students.

Here is a list of sentences that have been taken from a study about the use of non-standard English among British 15 and 16-year-old students.

  1. Go through the list. Can you spot the mistakes? How would these sentences look in Standard English?

  2. Are any of them sentences that you could have used? In spoken English? In written English?

  • It wasn't me who done it.

  • His mum brung him a hot drink.

  • There isn't any seats left.

  • See them books over there?

  • Come quick. You have to see this.

  • He threw it out the window.

  • I didn't break no vase.

  • Me and my friend play football.

  • This one is more easier to use.

  • That dinner was dead good.

  • This one don't work.

  • He ain't got enough.

  • She couldn't hardly move.

  • Lucy is the beautifullest of the sisters.

  • I'm living here for five years.

  1. I didn't do it.

  2. His mum brought him a hot drink.

  3. There aren't any seats left.

  4. See the-/-those books over there?

  5. Come quickly. You have to see this.

  6. He threw it out of the window.

  7. I didn't break the vase.

  8. My friend and I play football.

  9. This one is easier to use.

  10. That dinner was really-/-very good.

  11. This one doesn't work.

  12. He hasn't got enough.

  13. She could hardly move.

  14. Lucy is the most beautiful of the sisters.

  15. I've lived here for five years.

Class presentation

Work in groups. Choose one of the following standard accents of English and make a presentation for the class. You can do this in the form of a short film or a class presentation.

Find information about linguistic features that are unique for this accent, such as

  • grammar rules that are different from other accents

  • words and expressions that only this accent uses

  • the unique intonation of the accent. You may want to find video clips of people speaking this accent and try to mimic it. If you like, you may include this in your presentation.

  • Standard Canadian English

  • Standard Scottish English

  • General Indian English

  • Standard South African English

  • General Australian English

  • Irish English

  • Standard New Zealand English


  1. Write a text where you discuss how the use of different varieties of English can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication.

    You can choose to write a personal text where you describe a situation you have been in or a more formal text where you discuss the problem in general.

  2. If you open the expandable box, you will find a list of American slang expressions that are very common, but which do not belong in formal General American English.

    Write a story where you use as many of these words and expressions as you can. You are also free to include others that you know of.

    Possible titles: The Best Weekend Ever or My Greatest Mistake.

  • awesome (adjective) = something is wonderful or amazing

  • cool (adjective) = something is great or fantastic. It also shows that you’re okay with an idea

  • beat (adjective) = to be very tired or exhausted

  • to hang out (verb) = to be together with friends in your free time, not doing anything particular

  • to chill out (verb) = to relax

  • wheels (Noun) = car

  • amped (Adjective) = to be super excited

  • to have a blast (Verb) = to do something that is great and having an amazing and fun time

  • to have a crush [on somebody] (verb) = to be attracted to somebody

  • to dump [somebody] (verb) = to stop having a romantic relationship with someone

  • hooked [on something] (adjective) = to be addicted to something, not getting enough

  • sick (adjective) = when something is really cool, awesome or the best

  • epic fail (noun) = big failure / complete disaster

  • ripped (adjective) = to be muscular after having worked out in the gym (usually men/guys, but not always)

  • dunno (contraction) = I don’t know.

  • loser (noun) = a contemptible or unfashionable person

  • rip-off (noun)/ to rip off (verb) = used if something is way too expensive


Black,B (2008). Investigating non-standard English in GCSE students in England. Retrieved from: https://www.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/Images/aspects-of-writing-non-standard-english-sep-2008.pdf

Relatert innhold

CC BY-SASkrevet av Åse Elin Langeland og Karin Søvik.
Sist faglig oppdatert 26.04.2018


Varieties of English