Learn How To Do A Brummie Accent and a Black Country AccentIf you're want to learn how to do a Birmingham Brummie accent then you're in the right place! Watch this amazing video covering all the features of a Brummie and Black Country accent so you can do one too! See video
How to do a brummie accent.
In today’s lesson we’ll be looking at the features of Birmingham’s Brummie accent, as well as how it differs from the Black Country accent of the West Midlands, United Kingdom.
You can watch the full video below as well as reading the transcript of this wonderful interview between our Head Accent Coach, Anna and a native Yam Yam, Mirren. Enjoy!
Birmingham’s Brummie Accent Video
Features of a Brummie Accent and Dialect
Mirren: Why are you blarting? It’s bostin’ in ‘eah.
Anna: Hello everyone. Anna here from English like a native.com, the site which teaches you to speak English with confidence. Many of you have been asking me for a video looking at the features of a Birmingham accent, a Brummie accent.
Now in my search for someone to help me to demonstrate the Birmingham features, I found today’s lovely guest.
However, she’s not strictly a Brummie. I’ll let her introduce herself.
Mirren: Hi, I’m Mirren, an actress, born in Wolverhampton, which technically makes me a Yam Yam, but today we are gonna be going through the Birmingham accent.
Anna: That’s right. Mirren is from Wolverhampton, which is about 30 minutes northwest of Birmingham, and within an area known as ‘The Black Country.’
What’s the difference between a Brummie Accent and a Black Country Accent?
Anna: The Black Country has a rich, traditional dialect containing words, which are not often heard from a Brummie. The tune of these two accents, the Black Country accent and the Brummie accent can also differ depending on the strength of the speaker’s accent.
However many people from outside the West Midlands, and for the majority of my subscribers who are from other countries, the Black Country and Brummie accents sound very similar.
General features of the West Midlands Accent
Anna: Therefore, today we’ll look at the general features of the West Midlands accent which includes Birmingham and the Black Country.
So let’s kick things off with the first feature.
The /ʌ/ short vowel in a Brummie Accent
Anna: The /ʌ/, short vow, /ʌ/ sound. This is present in words such as strut, up, love, and above. In a modern RP, you will hear, /ʌ/, but in the West Midlands accent, a different vow, sound is used. Let’s hear how Miran says these words.
Mirren: Strut. Up. Love. Above.
If you had enough love, he wouldn’t shut off.
The /ɪ/ short vowel in a Brummie Accent
Anna: Next, we’ll look at the, /ɪ/, sound. A short vow, /ɪ/, it’s present in words such as sit, pit, hit, and unfit.
This short vowel sound will linger a little bit longer within a West Midlands accent, making it lean more towards an E sound. Let’s listen to Miam.
Mirren: Seat. Pete. Feet. Heat.
My kit won’t fit. He’s unfit to babysit.
The /ɑ:/ long vowel in a Brummie Accent
Anna: Now the long vowel /ɑ:/ present in words such as bath, past, last and fast.
Typically, there is a north south divide with this sound with a shorter ‘a’ sound in the north and a long /ɑ:/ sound in the south. The midlands goes with the northern variation. So let’s have a listen to Marin.
Mirren: Fast, bath, past, last.
I’ll ask you a question and you must answer me fast one more time. In the past, my bath would last for hours.
The /ə/ sound in Brummie accent
Anna: Now the treatment of the schwa sound is quite interesting. The schwa is one of the most common sounds in the English language and a sound which is weak. It takes the place of all the weaker vowels within a word.
Often we hear the schwa in place of an ER ending, so a word ending with er, like water better and altar. So you can hear that, /ə/, sound water better alta in a Brummie and Black Country accent, this sound is given a little bit more strength and leans towards an ‘a’ sound rather than, /ə/. Have a listen.
Mirren: Water, doctor, better.
The doctor made me feel altogether better. Don’t bother just alter the water.
The Brummie accent in words ending with /ɪ/
Anna: Now let’s look at words ending with a Y. Words like silly, very, happy and dainty, in modern RP.
This sound is similar to a long E sound with the back of the tongue high /ɪ/. It’s just not quite as long. But in the Midlands accent, the back of the tongue, it’s a little lower, leaving more space at the back of the mouth. Let’s listen to Mirren.
Mirren: Dainty. Very. Happy. Silly.
I’m happy you brought a clean nappy, Billy, you. Very silly.
The /əʊ/ diphthong in a Birmingham accent
Anna: Now, here’s a subtle one for you. The /əʊ/ diphthong present in words such as goat, boat, hope and no. The beginning of this diphthong starts with schwa, /ə/. But in a West Midlands accent, the initial vowel shifts slightly towards an ah sound.
Mirren: Both, no, goat, hope.
No, you can’t take a goat on the boat. I don’t know if you’ll swim or float.
Other Diphthongs in a Birmingham accent
Anna: Now let’s see how Mirren treats some of the other diphthong sounds like the O sound present in words, such as how, now, brown, cow.
Mirren: How, now, brown, cow.
Not now. I won’t allow it. The loud mouth went south.
Anna: The /aɪ/ diphthong, /aɪ/, present in words such as why, price, mine, lie and cry. It sees an interesting change in the Midlands accent, and there is a further difference, again between the Brummie and the Black Country accent when it comes to this sound. But basically listeners will hear something closer to the oi sound like in the word choice.
Have a listen.
Mirren: Why, mine, Troy, price, lie.
I quite like it. Why did the shy guy lie all the time?
The /eɪ/ diphtong for Brummies
Anna: The final diphthong to listen to is /eɪ/, present in words such as way, play, obey, and shave. The initial vow here shifts away from the /eɪ/, sound and moves more towards a relaxed, almost schwa sound. Have a listen.
Mirren: Shave. Way. Obey. Play.
Go away and play for the day. Which way did you say?
The tapped R sound pronounced in a Brummie accent
Anna: Now, sometimes you will hear speakers with a West Midlands accent tapping the R in the word, right? Or alright. Have a listen.
Anna: As with many other regional accents, we also see many Hs dropped, like in words such as home and hope. . Oh, we will also hear a released G sound when we have an NG together in a modern rp, this holds as a nasal sound. For example, the word song and the G isn’t released. Or singer. Singer that G releases glided over and doesn’t really happen. But listen to how Mirren says them.
Mirren: Song. Singer. Walking, talking.
The Yam Yam Accent and Brummie Dialect in conversation
Anna: Next, we’re going to listen to Miriam’s Yam Yam accent in full flow as we have a good old chat discussing things like prejudice that surrounds this accent and how she deals with that, as well as covering some of the dialect.
Hello Mien, how are you?
Mirren: I’m good, thank you.
Anna: Thank you so much for joining us here today.
Mirren: That’s no problem.
Anna: Um, so you are originally from Wolverhampton?
Anna: Now in Wolverhampton, it’s not technically Birmingham, is it?
Mirren: No. In the West Midlands, there is a difference. So it’s uh, the Black Country and Birmingham, right, but to anyone outside, there’s not really that much of a difference.
Do people discriminate against the Brummie Accent?
Anna: So in terms of the accent, Black Country and Birmingham are very similar. Now, have you found that your accent has ever been, like, a help or a hindrance in your life? Has it ever done good or done bad for you?
Mirren: It’s done a bit of both, to be honest. Um, I think the accent comes across in one of two ways. Other people hate it or people think it’s quite fun and quite not charming, but like, they’re like, anyway.
Mirren: So, um, now in acting classes in the past, I’ve had the ‘Tone your accent down. Tone your accent down.’
Anna: Tone it down,
Mirren: Yeah. And ‘it comes across very monotone and a bit boring.’ Other people, they think it’s great. So I went to a concert once and this lady was like, Oh my God, are you from over Wolverhampton? I was like, Yeah, I can tell by your voice. I love your voice. I was like, Oh, cool. Hi.
Anna: That’s nice. It’s really nice when people connect with you and strangers connect with you because of your accent. I think that that’s really sweet. Was she also from Wolverhampton?
Mirren: No, she wasn’t. She had a friend who used to live in Wolverhampton. So she was like, Oh, you remind me of my friend. Oh, I love your voice. It makes me feel happy. And I was like, that’s nice.
Do you change your accent at work?
Anna: Wonderful. So do you find that there are, um, situations in life where you do – apart from acting classes of course – where you tone your accent down or change your accent for whatever reason?
Mirren: Yeah, if I’m at work I try and sound a little bit more professional. Or..
Anna: What do you do for work, if you don’t mind saying?
Mirren: I work on a bar. But when I am on the bar, especially if there’s like posh people call my try and be like, Oh, hello. You okay?
Anna: So you are actually adjusting the accent, or you’re just sounding clearer? Coz there is a difference between being more, um, being well articulated, and actually shifting your vowels.
Mirren: Yeah, I’ll probably just try and sound a bit more articulated than actually change my accent. I find that quite hard to do.
Anna: So do you take phone calls at all when you are working on the bar?
Mirren: Uh, no, but if I do take a phone call ever, even if it’s my mom, it’s always ‘hello’.
Anna: So you know what we’re gonna do now, don’t you? Okay. So…
A telephone call with a Black Country lass.
Anna: Bring, bring, bring, bring.
Anna: I can’t hear any brummy at all! Do you find that there’s ever a point where your accident actually gets stronger?
Mirren: Yeah, if I’ve been around my friends who are from, um, who were very Black Country, or my granddad as well, I was very Black Country. Uh, it tends to get stronger. Or if I’ve been criticized about my accent, I tend to make it a bit stronger.
Mirren: I’m not sure why. I think it’s just a self-defense kind of mechanism.
Anna: It’s like there is, um, there’s a social behavior around accents. You are generally one of two types of people. Either you are the kind of person who just really subconsciously wants to fit in with a group and those kinds of people tend to start to mimic those people around them. So I’m that kind of person. I always just want to fit in. And so my accent will change wherever I am, depending on who I’m with.
Anna: And then there are those people who are staunchly proud of who they are and where they come from. And if they’re in situations where they feel under pressure, they feel defensive, or if they’re completely outside of their own area and the accent is not around them at all, then their accent tends to get stronger. Cuz they’re like, I’m gonna represent where I’m from.
And obviously there’s nothing wrong with either of them usually. Fair. It’s completely subconscious and you don’t realize you’re doing it, but you are definitely a staunch Brummie, a staunch Yam Yam.
Have you ever noticed, like you mentioned your granddad, but have you noticed a difference between, like, generations? Does your granddad sound like you, is his accent the same?
Mirren: No. His accent’s a lot stronger than mine.
Mirren: And he worked in Tipton, which is a very, um, very, very strong accent.
Mirren: That’s probably the heart of the Black Country.
Anna: Sure. I know Tipton.
Mirren: Um, so yeah, his accent is very, very strong.
Mirren: Stronger than mine.
Anna: And do you think that’s a whole generation thing or is it just your granddad?
Mirren: No, I think it is a generation thing. If you, sometimes on the news, if there was someone from either Birmingham or the Black Country and they’re speaking, you can tell. There’s a bit of a shift there that they’re accent’s a lot.
Anna: A lot stronger.
Mirren: And is there a dialect difference as well? Do you find that there’s dialect words that your granddad will use that you don’t really use anymore, and you’re like that’s old fashioned now, Granddad.
The Birmingham Brummie Dialect
What does keep out the oss road mean?
Mirren: Yeah. A phrase always says is ‘keep out the oss road’.
Anna: Keep out the oss road?
Mirren: Yeah. Which either means, how are you, like ‘Stay well’. Or how are you? I think it’s stay well, like, stay out of trouble. Yeah. I hope you’re okay. Stay Well.
Anna: Last question for you, before we talk about dialect in detail, is there anything that people do when they hear your accent that’s really annoying?
Anna: Like a signature thing that everyone does to mimic you? What is it?
Mirren: So if they ask ‘Where are you from?’ Oh, I’m from around Birmingham. Oh, I’m from Birmingham. And you’re like.
Anna: Yes, I am. I have to admit, I have heard people do that ‘Birmingham’. And you, do you find that annoying or do you I do you laugh it off.
Mirren: I laugh it off, but um, it’s the face, everyone pulls the same face and they do it. And it’s like, do we all look like this to you? Oh, Birmingham, it is funny. I know it’s not meant bad, so…
Anna: What we would call ‘banter’.
The Birmingham and Black Country Dialect
Anna: Okay, so let’s talk about dialect. So there’s a couple of words here. Some I am familiar with. Mm-hmm. Coz I actually studied in Birmingham and lived there for four years, and some I’m not familiar with. So I’m hoping you can help me out with this. Okay. Um, so for those who are watching, who don’t know…
What does babby mean?
Anna: What does babby mean? What’s a babby?
Mirren: A babby’s a baby.
Anna: Ah, Little baby.
Mirren: Little baby.
What does cob mean in Brummie?
Anna: Okay. And, um, what does, what’s a cob?
Mirren: A cob is a bun, like a burger bun.
Anna: Okay. So would you have a burger on a cob?
Mirren: So I’ll get the cobs, I guess.
Anna: Okay. Not a bap.
What does pop mean?
Anna: What does pop mean? Quite simple. I’m asking for a pop, what I’m asking for?
Mirren: Just anything that’s not water, I guess, or anything. Like a fizzy drink.
Mirren: Or yeah. Fizzy drinks, or squash. Yeah. Is, but I’ll call squash pop.
Anna: But it’s quite universal pop, isn’t it? I think a lot of people use it, but potentially it might come from Birmingham.
Mirren: I think so.
What does boston’ mean in Birmingham?
Anna: What does bosting mean? If something is bosting, what does that mean?
Mirren: Bostin’s very good. So are your bostin’? That means you are, you are great.
Anna: So if I went to Boston in America and in Boston, it was amazing. I could say it’s Bostin in Boston.
Mirren: I dunno if they’d understand, but they probably wouldn’t.
What does blartin’ mean?
Anna: Um, okay, here’s another one that I really have no idea about and that’s blartin’.
Mirren: Blartin’s when you have a good cry. If you’re watching a film and you have a blart.
Anna: So it’s like to sob?
Anna: The noisy cry.
Mirren: Yeah. Proper like, but it could be any kind of, I was gonna say any kind of blart, but any kind of cry.
Anna: Yes. So if it’s just a little shedding a tear.
Mirren: Yeah. Having a blart. Yeah.
Anna: Okay. So you have a blart?
Mirren: Yeah, I think so.
Anna: Could you say she’s proper blarting?
Mirren: Yeah, I think you can. She’s blarting, she’s having a blart as well.
Anna: Okay. More commonly having a blart.
Anna: So yesterday she had a blart, over an advert.
What does ‘it ay’ mean in the Black Country dialect?
Anna: Yeah. Okay. Um, what about a ‘it ay’?
Mirren: It ay.
Anna: It ay.
Mirren: So, uh, that means ‘it isn’t’ so…
Mirren: Um, ‘Oh, that’s good.’ ‘Oh, it ay.’ – It isn’t.
Anna: Okay. I lived in Birmingmah for four years, like I said, and I never heard that one.
Mirren: I think that might be a more Black Country.
Anna: More Black Country based.
What does wench mean in a Birmingham dialect?
Anna: What does wench mean?
Mirren: Wench? Wench is a woman.
Anna: So any kind of woman.
Anna: It doesn’t sound like a friendly term.
Mirren: No, it doesn’t. It sounds a bit pirate-y I think.
Mirren: Wench. So wench is a woman and, it’s not meant in bad like, Eh, bad faith or whatever.
Anna: So if I was trying to point someone out to you and there’s a lady that I’m trying to point out and I say, Oh, it’s that wench over there.
Mirren: Yeah. Would that be totally fine?
Anna: Yeah. Oh, look at her. Look at that wench.
Mirren: That’s so funny.
What does ‘tarrah a bit’ mean in the Brummie dialect?
Anna: Okay, the last one, when you are leaving, You might say, tarra a bit.
Mirren: Tarrah a bit.
Anna: I used to hear this all the time when I was in Birmingham. That just means goodbye, right?
Anna: What do you know where that comes from? Tarra a bit? To like ‘see you in a little while’?
Mirren: See you in a bit, I guess. Or see you later, kind of. I always say it. I think I say it to my grandparents. I say it to my brother as well on the phone sometimes ‘tarra a bit’.
Anna: That’s amazing.
Mirren: That’s, that’s what’s a main phrase, I’d say.
Anna: Yeah. I love it. Tarra a bit.
What does bab mean in the Brummie dialect?
Anna: Do you say bab, when you are like, as a term of endearment?
Mirren: Um, I do sometimes accidentally and my brother will take the mickey, and ‘alright bab’.
Anna: Oh yeah.
Mirren: But yeah, bab, bab’s kind of like, ‘Oh, you’re alright sweet?’ ‘You’re alright Bab?’
Anna: Well, it’s like, babe isn’t it? It’s just been shortened right down to bab. Yeah. Yeah. So I’ve got a few Birmingham friends who say bab all the time. ‘Y’alright bab’.
Anna: Well, it’s been really, really interesting and I do love your accent, so thank you. Don’t tone it down. Be strong and be proud. You have a Twitter account, don’t you? If people want to follow what’s going on in your life?
Anna: Where can they find you?
Mirren: My Twitter is @mirrenhowarth1
Anna: So I just wanna say a huge thank you for watching this. If you did find this helpful, then please give it a thumb up. If you are from the Black Country or from Birmingham and you have any additional dialect phrases or there are, um, accent features which we haven’t covered, please do put it in the comment section of the video so we can all learn from your experience as well. Um, don’t forget, subscribe and click that bell notification button. Otherwise, I’ll see you next time.
Anna: Tarra a bit.
The British Accent Specialist Series
If you like this accent lesson, you'll love my other lessons on beautiful English accents. Just click on the links below to find out more!
- The Scouse Accent
- The Irish Accent
- The Cockney Accent
- The Brummie Accent
- The Newcastle Geordie Accent
- How to change your accent
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