Friday, March 16, 2012

The United Kingdom, Ireland, Britain, England, and Other Confusing Geography Concepts

An administrative map of the British Isles. Click here for a full-sized view.
Hello, and happy Friday! Last week we talked about confusing capitals in English-speaking countries, and I mentioned that today I'd talk about England and Ireland, since that part of the world is even more confusing. It's important for English learners to understand at least a little about that part of the world because England is obviously one of the places where the English language came from, and many resources you find online may use British English.

First, if you want to understand why these geographical and political place names are so complicated, you can check out this video (the speaker talks very quickly, but if you click here you can find a script for the video and read along):


That's obviously a lot of information and it goes very fast, even for a native speaker like me. But the point is, that part of the world is very confusing politically and geographically. The capitals aren't as confusing, though.

Road signs in Ireland, some of which are in English and Irish. (Image)
For the Republic of Ireland, the capital is Dublin, and the residents are called "Irish." The two main languages spoken there are Irish English and Irish. Many signs are written in both languages.

The United Kingdom coat of arms. It's pretty awesome that it has a unicorn! (Image)
For the United Kingdom (as the video says, the full name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), the capital is London. Most people there speak British English, but there are some people who speak Scots, Welsh, and other minority languages. As the video mentions, the UK is also divided into different countries, and each of those countries has a capital. The four countries in the UK, along with their capitals, are:

England - London
Scotland - Edinburgh
Wales - Cardiff 
Northern Ireland - Belfast

The adjective for each of these places can be "British," but each country also has its own adjective, like "English," "Scottish," "Welsh," and "Northern Irish."

Here are a few examples:

"Princess Diana was Welsh, since she was from Wales."
"I often have trouble understanding some dialects of Scottish and Irish English."
"There are many differences between British and American English, but if you understand one, you can normally understand the other." (Read here and here for more information)

That's it for today! If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please leave a comment or contact me. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

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-Ryan