British english vs American EnglishThere are many different dialects of english spoken today, the two major groups being British english and American english.
Some of the differences between British and American english today, range from spelling and grammar to punctuation and time/date formatting.
The use of American and British english is strongly determined by the location of the speakers.
American english is the form of english used mainly by people in the united states
of America. This does not include canadian
english, even though the Canadian pronunciation is similar to that of the united states, the spelling used in Canada is often that of the British form.
The use of American english tends to be most popular in Russia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines.
British english is the form of english used in the United Kingdom of great britain
as well as in former colonies of the British Empire. The British form of english is often referred to as International english or Commonwealth english because most of its speakers live in countries that are members of the Commonwealth.
British english can be found in much of Africa as well as in Canada, Pakistan and India, Malta, Australia, New Zealand and some areas of the South Pacific, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong.
The language of Great Britain spread to other parts of the world with the growth of the British Empire. The spread of British english was helped by trade routes and colonisation.
It is common knowledge that American english developed from British english during the settlement of British immigrants in America. Why did British english in America develop into a language so different from the original spoken British english?
There are various theories surrounding this, but the main reasons suggested for the difference is traced back to the original immigrants that left Britain for America. Many of them were uneducated British, irish and Scottish.
The other reason cited for the difference is the long distance between the Americas and Great Britain. This stunted the development and natural growth of the language in America.
The differences between American and British english become very apparent when looking at spelling and pronunciation. These 2 aspects have a big influence on teaching english as a foreign language to students as the teacher’s preference is determined by their own nationality.
American and British spelling differ in many word groups and began with the simplification of english spelling in the USA in an attempt to simplify the language for the immigrant citizens, many of whom had no access to formal education.
In 1906 the Simplified Spelling Board was founded in the USA and they had a list of about 300 words that they wanted to simplify by changing the British spelling.
This list was promoted by presidents and other bodies in the USA until 1921. Noah Webster’s Dictionary proposed changes to the spelling of 10 main word classes in 1864. It is from this list that differences such as changing ‘colour’ to ‘color’ and ‘theatre’ to ‘theater’; came from.
Pronunciation is the other big difference. Most British colonies adopted the standard ‘Queen’s english’ from the British Empire.
The lack of British influence after the immigrants settled in America caused the language in America developed with a completely different pronunciation structure than that of British english.
Pronunciation differences are most apparent with the use of the ‘a’ sound, the rolling of ‘r’ sounds and the cutting off of‘t’ sounds in words.
When looking at international use of American and British english, most international organisations, groups and sectors prefer the use of British english.
Compared to only 2 institutions, The World Bank and the Organisation of American States, making use of American english as their official language; there is the EU, UN, NATO, International Aviation, The World Trade Organisation and the International Olympic Committee, to name only a few, who use British english as their official language.
In conclusion it is clear that both American and British english are languages in their own right.
For the purpose of teaching it is strongly suggested to introduce students to both languages and to point out differences and similarities in order to prepare them for encountering both.
By making students aware of these differences teachers will be educating students on how to be an international speaker of english rather than a student of english as a foreign language.