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British English vs American English
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With English being recognised as the global language of choice, which one is considered the official language?
So just how did American English diverge from British English in the first place? American English roots back to the early colonial days of the late 16th century, were a whole gamut of cultures converged into a single society. In some colonies English wasn’t even a spoken language and in those colonies that did speak English it was quite different from the English we know today. The Elizabethan English of the day consisted of many varieties of regional English dialects. All these different dialects, intermingled with a multitude of cultures formed one big boiling pot, of which over time, a new variant was produced – American English. And what was happening to the English back in Britain at the same time? There was a steady transformation of Elizabethan English into the British English we know today, without the influences that are present in a new developing multicultural nation. No wonder British and American English diverged into such two distinct forms. Noteworthy is the fact that there are also other variants of English. These are the forms of English spoken in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Although Australian and New Zealand English are simular to British English, they have established themselves as distinct dialects. In Canada, due to its close proximity to America, its English has elements of both British and American English.
Now back to the original question, which one is considered the official language? This has proven to be a touchy topic for some, on both sides of the Atlantic, as denoted by Englishman Samuel Johnson’s remarks,
"This treatise is written with such elegance as the subject admits, tho’ not without some mixture of the American dialect, a tract of corruption to which every language widely diffused must always be exposed."
And equally so with American, John Adam’s statement,
“As the people through this extensive country will speak English, their advantages for polishing their language will be great, and vastly superior to what the people of England ever enjoyed.”
While England can claim rights as the founder of the World’s most preferred language (although not the most widely spoken), it could however, be America who was responsible for boosting it to such international recognition. Post World War 2 saw American culture and influence spread far and wide across the globe. This paved the way for the global exposure of American English. Certainly, there are far more speakers of American English worldwide than British English speakers, but does that qualify making it the official language? With the worldwide spread of the American culture and influence, some foreign language institutes are changing from British to American English, even some of those that were former British colonies. Even an increasing number of students want to learn American English, after all they are bombarded with it daily, on their TV’s, in their music, on the internet…it’s no wonder. So where does this leave British English? Fortunately for England, British English hasn’t exactly been standing still while all of this has been happening. England has had a large global dominance as well, thrusting its version of the language globally, although certainly not to the same extent. However, through its global dominance from its earlier colonisations and its ownership of the “Oxford”, England has ensured a global persistence of British English to remain.
As the United Nations has officially accepted both forms of English, it is likely that English will remain, for sometime yet, as a duality of two variants.
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English is English. Or is it? While many students worldwide embark on the task of learning English for various reasons, one must be cognizant of what type of English he or she is learning, specifically American or British English. While the differences are small enough that you will be generally understood wherever you go, they are also great enough to cause some confusion and merit some attention. This is a study not so much of the grammatical differences between the two styles, but rather an examinations of the quirks, nuances, irregularities, and colloquialisms inherent in the two styles.
With some exposure, learners and speakers of English will notice that the regional differences and dialects are far greater within British English than they are within American English (Wikipedia). Due to today’s mass communication and the initial, highly heterogeneous settling of the “American West” in the nineteenth century, American English dialects experienced, over time, a “mixing” and “leveling” which makes the speech more homogeneous today (Ibid). Conversely, there was a much longer history of dialect development within Great Britain and, as such, dialects today can very greatly not only across borders (Scotland, England, Wales, etc.), but also regionally within borders (Ibid.)
Regional, dialectical differences aside, today’s greatest difference between the American and British English forms seems to be vocabulary choice (Beare). Firstly, this entails having different vocabulary words for the same object. For example, in America we say “hood” and “trunk” to refer to the front and back compartments of a car whereas in the British Isles these are referred to as the “bonnet” and the “boot” (Beare). Similarly, Americans say “napkin” and British people “serviettes”. Furthermore, there are British words for which there is no American equivalent, per say, as well as American words for which the English seem to lack an exact equivalent. The British word for two weeks is a fortnight, but Americans would just say “two weeks”. Along those lines, Americans have the word “flashlight” which is different from a stick with fire, which we call a torch. British people call what we call a flashlight a torch.
Further confusion can arise through further pronunciation and definitional differences. There are some words which, although they are spelled and pronounced the same, have different meanings. One example is the word “mean” which in America could mean angry while in Great Britain it could mean frugal (Beare). There are also words which have different spellings but the same pronunciation and meaning. Examples of such words are color vs. colour, favor vs. favour, and tire vs. tyre (American vs British). Compounding the idiosyncrasies is the reverse, words with the same spelling but different forms of pronunciation. This can be glimpsed with words like leisure, can’t, and schedule (Ibid).
Nevertheless, some continuity and patterns between the two forms of English arise with a little study. In terms of spelling changes, there is a pattern of transformation. Words that end in “or” in American English change their endings to “our” in British English. Similarly, words that end in “ize” in American English change their endings to “ise” (Beare).
One final discrepancy between the two forms of English is the way in which the date is written. In America the date is written in the order of month/day/year. In Great Britain this becomes day/month/year. This is just one further example of the slight, yet potentially confusing differences which exist in one “common language”.
And so, it appears that English is not necessarily just English. While great regional differences still exist within British English, American English is rather homogeneous. The greatest differences we have seen involve vocabulary choices from one side of the Atlantic to the other along with slight, accompanying spelling and pronunciation differences. As an American you might get some strange glances or quirky stares while using your form of English in Great Britain, and vise versa, but on the whole, the two forms of English are mutually intelligible.
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“There is no such thing as Canadian English…[it] is a myth, fabricated to reinforce a fragile Canadian identity.”
For some, the idea of the English language is a very clear-cut, inarguable point. But for those born outside of the United States, where English has been, in some minds, redefined as American; or outside of the United Kingdom, specifically England, for which the language was dubiously titled, the matter is not so simple. Though it is natural for any language to vary according to region, if that region happens to be the 51st State, as well as being the polite prodigal son of Olde Mother England, or by name, Canada, then an entirely new web of inconsistencies has spun itself.
Though all strains have sprung from the same grain, according toWikipedia.com, “Canadian English is a mixture of American, British, and unique Canadianisms”; which, taken as a flat definition, really does nothing but assert the ‘superiority’ of the U.K.’s and U.S.’s predominant stamps on the language. By ‘Canadianisms’, “the two thousand words or expressions that are native to Canada, or which have a meaning peculiar to or characteristic of Canada,” must be simply implied. (Dane Jurcic, Canadian English/ www.chass.utoronto.ca) For example: there are saskatoons, a plump, blue berry (Native Cree), toques (tuques) and toboggans, which are winter caps and sleds, respectively (French Canadian/Metis), and Mounties, a nickname for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or R.C.M.P., to name just a few.
Ask nearly anyone, from nearly everywhere that English is widely spoken, including Canada, and ‘eh’ (pronounced ay, as in day) is usually the first, and only, ‘Canadianism’ mentioned. Oddly enough, however, this interjection is far from being unique to this quiet nation. From France to Scotland, England to the American South, and well beyond, eh is commonly used to punctuate an interrogatory, or to emphasize a statement, or even an imperative. However, “the frequency and context in which it occurs in Canadian speech is remarkably different than both American and British native speakers”, et al. (Jurcic)
Here again reference is made to the two staunch gauges of modern English, American and British, which leads into the greatest conundrum Canadians are faced with today: how to spell colour/color. Aside from particular scholars of the bastardized ‘Canadian language’, even the most learned of Canadian linguists will pause and scratch their heads before committing to paper a doubtful spelling of centre/center, defence/defense, realise/realize, and so on. Why the self-doubt (pronounced ‘dah-oot’, not ‘doot’, for those who wish to practice)? Without a clear, consistent delineation on which to base the spellings of such common language, Canadians are perpetually confronted by subtle, ‘alternate’ spellings of easy terms; which, though not necessarily condoned by, are certainly accepted by such institutions as the public school system, and 7-11 (via resumes, a.k.a. CVs), a venerable convenience store chain known for its broad range of spoken and written English languages. It is permissible, then, in Canada, to…choose your own spelling. “Whatever [spelling] seems best, is best.” (www.vector.cx)
Though these cheerful and rather slight discrepancies may suggest Canadian English to be an inferior but versatile and adaptive dialect, it can be rather confusing to sit down at a breakfast table in a house coat/robe/dressing gown, and ask for a serviette/napkin/paper towel/, before excusing one’s self from the table to use the bathroom/toilet/washroom.
So, if you do happen to accidentally land yourself in Canada (lay over in Vancouver, eh?), please take pity on the natives. They are a poor lot, and though they may not drape themselves in Red, White and Blue, or fiercely defend their right to ‘take tea’ at four in the afternoon, they do have their points in pride. As far as language goes you may deem them mongrelized, in a happy breeding kind of way, but Canadians will “just go ahead and use English for literature, Scotch for sermons, and American for conversation”, while simply calling it Canadian.
Sean D. Jones
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The English language has become a very rich and widely used language. It is the second most spoken language in the world (behind Mandarin Chinese) and “it is the language of science, aviation, computing, diplomacy, and tourism.” (krysstal.com) It has had many influences along the line to reach the language that it is today. From the strict use of Latin by the church in the Middle Ages to the Norman Occupation of what is modern day Great Britain, English’s many influences has given it the deepest vocabulary of all languages. Through the years many different dialects have arisen further richening it’s legacy. There are too many to write about in their entirety here in this paper but if they could be split into main dialects and then sub dialects they would most likely stem from two main sources: American English (AmE) and British English (BrE).
The argument can be made that BrE is more diverse than AmE and to a degree I would agree with this. English was born in the British isles and grew to become Modern English. In the history of the language the American dialect has merely been around for the blink of an eye. The different regions and sometimes, even villages, in Britain enjoyed a long time of maturation of dialects. Before public transportation, before travel was common amongst the average family, these dialects were able to define themselves with out getting diluted by human migration. However, in the history of the U.S. things happened at a more rapid rate.
When looking at a dialect map of the U.S. one can see a big difference Between the North and the South of the Eastern half. Looking closely than can see a subtle difference between Boston and New York and than as they travel farther south the even greater difference between the New England area and Florida or Georgia. However, as you move west the dialects fade into one more general American dialect, the sound of CNN and Hollywood. It is the Eastern Coast that was settled first. It is there that the United States of America was born and grew for a time. As a result this area has the most diverse dialects. The move West happened faster and Technology itself made the country smaller at the same time. As it became more common for people to travel and move as they got older the dialects mixed and became diluted. With Radio and then Television and now finally the Internet we are experiencing a time where a place is merely a click of the mouse away. With this kind of access some dialects have begun to slowly disappear while a few others are fast becoming the main dialect spoken.
England itself has experienced such trends. The so-called “Queens English” or the common language of the BBC at one time became the educated norm. It became the language of Cambridge and Oxford University. It became the language of education. The public schools institutionalized it. As a result it became easy or easier at least to tell who had an education and who didn’t. Elitism grew as many people that spoke the “good” English looked down upon those that didn’t. Naturally this became the dialect of public office and the media. However, the rich and diverse dialects of Britain were not lost. In recent decades public figures have hung on to their accents and use them as opposed to the learned folks of the past. The BBC itself has hired a variety of accented people from diverse backgrounds to please both an increasingly diverse London audience and to reach the many viewers in villages across England, Wales, and Scotland. Overall the diversity in dialects in England alone is immense. From North Yorkshire down to Stoke on Trent In the Midlands and North to East London where the Cockney accent still thrives, England seems to have America beat. In an area that could easily be a state in the U.S. England offers as many if not more dialects.
At the end of the day it is easy to say that the English language as it is spoken all over the world with many different accents and sometimes a varying vocabulary is the richest of all the languages. As the originator and as the largest country speaking it, England and America respectively hold the title of masters of the English language.
SOURCES: British English vs. American English
I lived in London for two years with a job that took me all over the country and even into Wales for 2 week period. During this time I met, worked with, and lived with many people from all over the UK.
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Beyond the widely held view that British English and American English are one and the same language with a small number of variations in vocabulary, the differences in the dialects are deeper. As Bernard Shaw said, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” British English (BrE) and American English (AmE) carry a number of grammatical, idiomatical and syntaxical differences. In order to understand Shaw’s quote, one needs to look at some of the underlying factors that led to the separation of the two. American English has become its own dialect as a result of the simplification of the language followed by hundreds of years of an increasing divide.
English was first introduced to the American continent in the late 16th century. Many early settlers from the British Isles were religious dissidents and convicts who had little, if any, education. In the following centuries, people from all over Europe, many non-Anglophones, contributed to the growing American melting pot. This immigration, coupled with the lack of a centralized government regulating an education system comparable to the one existing in Britain, created the basis for AmE to diverge from BrE. These factors led the new Americans to simplify the English language in its oral, and eventually written, forms.
This can still be seen today in many American words which are spelled phonetically while British ones retain more of the original Saxon, Latin or Greek spellings (e.g. encyclopedia vs. encyclopaedia). The phonetic simplification of spelling is also obvious in the more common vocabulary. For example, many -our endings in BrE are replaced by –or in AmE. Similarly, an ‘s’ pronounced [z] in BrE is commonly substituted with ‘z’ in AmE (e.g. organization vs. organisation).
American grammar has followed the same simplifying trend. As a result, AmE uses more regular conjugation endings, particularly with past participles. For example, while the British use the irregular past participles ‘learnt’ or ‘dreamt,’ Americans are more likely to say ‘learned’ or ‘dreamed.’ Similarly, British use the present perfect tense more while Americans tend to replace it with the simple past (e.g. “I already did that.” vs. “I have already done that.”). Furthermore, Americans simplified the use of verbal auxiliaries. Although the use of ‘shall’ and ‘shan’t’ is extremely rare in AmE where they have been replaced by ‘will’ and ‘won’t,’ the two are still commonly used in BrE.
After the cut down of original English grammar, BrE and AmE had centuries to diverge into two dialects. Obviously, a main illustration of this is the differences in vocabulary and slang. Vocabulary was more or less the same between AmE and BrE until the industrial revolutions of the late 19th century. From this time, inventions were often given different names such as truck and lorry, elevator and lift, or trunk and boot. Slang in the two countries also evolved separately, including the use of the words ‘TV’ or ‘telly’ for television.Moncur, Michael. QuotationsPage.com; 1994-2007; Embassy of USA. 1/24/2005; Smith, Jeremy. Peak.org; 9/62006; Burden, Peter. British Council. 2000. Writers on the Net. 2005. ESLDepot.com. 2006. Wikipedia.org. 3/19/2007. BBC News. Cable Broadband Just Got Faster. 4/26/2004.
The lack of fast and easy means of communication before the digital age only supported the growing separation between the two continents.
The usage prepositions differ greatly between AmE with no apparent guiding rule. A British cat may be on heat while an American one may be in heat. This can also be seen when looking at transitivity in verbs. Many intransitive verbs in BrE are transitive in AmE and vice versa. The verb “to protest” is transitive in AmE, yet intransitive in BrE requiring the preposition ‘against.’ Also, many verbs that are intransitive in both dialects are paired with different prepositions. For example, a Briton is more likely to play in a sports team while an American would play on one. This again confirms that American English is a dialect that evolved independently from its mother language.
Clearly, the different historical processes Britain and America experienced led first, to a simplification of AmE compared to BrE and then to the two dialects evolving separately in their parts of the world. However, with the recent telecommunications revolution and the advent of American cultural dominance and influence, Britons are, more and more, tending to adopt American idioms and vocabulary. This is most evident in British advertising with their use of simple, direct slogans such as “Cable broadband just got faster.” as opposed to using a more traditional “Cable broadband has gotten quicker.” This is also true of other English-speaking areas of the world with their own dialects such as Australia, South Africa or Canada. After centuries of diverting paths, the English language is now becoming more uniform.
Erin Rae Peterson
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Since the end of WWII and the formation of the United Nations in 1945, English has been moving its way up as a global or otherwise, universal language. It has become the International language for business, finance, and technology. According to the British council, English has an official status in over 75 countries. Overall around 377 million people are native English speakers, and a similar number of people speak English as a second language. It is believed that over 750 million people worldwide speak English to some degree of competence. Hence, there is a range of varieties spoken around the world. The concept ofInternational English (Global, World, Common, General, and Standardare also common terms) moves towards defining a standardization for English, but as of now, none has been reached. Because of the variation of English begin taught and learned, and the changes it continuously endures, is standardization a concept that can be easily understood when talking about an International language based on a language that already varies in its own native countries? Possibly in the future a standard may be reached, but in the meantime, it is important for teachers to be aware of the differences and be able to point them out to students when necessary.
American and British English are said to be more similar than different. However, teachers still need to be aware of the differences that do exist and be familiar enough with them to pass them on to their students. There are differences in spelling, grammar, pronunciation and dialect. The English teacher cannot be expected to teach all of these differences, but spelling and a few grammar points are well worth pointing out.
In terms of spelling, some trends occur in the following examples:British English (BrE) American English (AmE) our vs or colour color humour humor favourite favorite
se vs zeanalyse analyze criticise criticize memorise memorize er vs re centre center theatre theater metre meter
In terms of Grammar, the use of the Present Perfect tense differs.
I’ve lost my key. Can you help me look for it?
This structure is a typical example of the Present Perfect tense. It is used in both British and American English.
I lost my key. Can you help me look for it?
In the above sentence, the auxiliary verb have has been dropped. This structure is also correct and frequented in American English, but considered incorrect in British English.
Another grammar difference deals with the past participle of get. In British English, the past participle of get is got.
He’s got much better at playing tennis
In American English, the past participle of get is gotten.
He’s gotten much better at playing tennis.
There are a large number of vocabulary words that differ in meaning between British and American English, a list far too big to discuss here. The teacher cannot be expected to know all of these, or even teach all the differences in meaning. When trying to define International English, and the concept of “standardization”, what we come to realize are the differences first of all between the two dominant variants of English (British and American). How can those two variants become “one” standardized form of English? What is more, is that over 75 countries use English as the official language, and the variations are incredible. The new, completely revised, Oxford English Dictionary should be released in 2010, to incorporate thousands of new words that are “flooding into the language from all corners of the world.” John Simpson, the Chief Editor of the OED says “there is no longer one English, there are many Englishes.”
A teacher should be aware of the differences between British and American English. A teacher should also be consistent with the language he/she teaches. What would a teacher do in the case that a course book was already chosen for the class, but used a different variant of English than the teacher was accustomed to? For instance, the course book uses a British standard and the teacher is American?...
I suppose a good teacher will embrace the differences and pass them on consistently.
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When the British landed in America in the late 16th century, they brought the English language to the area. Over time, there were several deviations in the 2 languages, including:
Different spelling and punctuation
Different pronunciation and accent
Different use of verb / agreement and possession, , and
Different use of prepositions.
Different Words, Different Spelling & Different Pronunciation / Accent
Sometimes British and American speakers won’t understand each other despite both speaking English! This is because there are some words which having completely different meanings between the two dialects, and some words that are unknown or not used in one of the dialects. Some of the differences are slight, and some people could argue, depending on the origin of the American family, that words mean the same. For example, the word jumper in British English (BE) is a sweater, and in American English (AE) it refers to a “jumpsuit”- almost like a dress. Many vocabulary items are also used in one form and not in the other. One of the best examples of this is the terminology used for automobiles:
AE - hood BE - bonnet
AE - trunk BE - boot
AE - truck BE - lorry
There are some words which are more similar - but have a different spelling or a different pronunciation. Some general spelling differences apply to words ending in “or” in AE, end in “our” in BE: color / colour, humor / humour, flavor / flavour etc, or words ending in “”ize” in AE, end in “ise” in BE: recognize / recognise, patronize / patronize, etc. Examples of words which have a different pronunciation include such words include: advertisement, controversy, laboratory, secretary, leisure, schedule, dynasty, dance, renaissance, oregano, migratory, aluminium (British) - aluminum (US), Polythene (British)- polyethylene (US), and maths (British) - math (US) (shortening of "mathematics").
Different use of verb tense usage
British English uses the present perfect to express an action that has occurred in the recent past that impacts the present moment. AE also uses present perfect for this purpose, but past simple can also be used, which in BE would be considered incorrect.
British & American English: I've lost my key. Can you help me look for it?American English: I lost my key. Can you help me look for it? (Considered incorrect in BE)
In addition, the use of already, just and yet is different in the 2 English variations. In BE, the present perfect tense is used with these, while in AE the past simple can be used.
I just had lunch (AE) I've just had lunch. (A& BE)
Verbs / Agreement and Possession
There are a set of verbs which have two acceptable forms of the past simple/past participle in both American and British English, however, the “regular” form (ending in ed) is more common to AE, while the “irregular” form is generally more common in BE. These verbs include:
Burn Burnt OR burned
Dream dreamt OR dreamed
Lean leant OR leaned
Learn learnt OR learned
Smell smelt OR smelled
Spell spelt OR spelled
Spill spilt OR spilled
Spoil spoilt OR spoiled
Another difference between British and American English is that In BE, collective nouns (the group, the committee) can take either singular or plural verb forms, while in AE collective nouns are usually singular. For example:
The group were unable to agree (acceptable in BE)
The group was unable to agree (acceptable in B&AE)
England have played well today, even if they lost. (BE)
England has played well today, even if it lost. (AE)
The Verb Get
The past participle of the verb get is gotten in AE. Example He's gotten much better at playing tennis. In BE however, it is got: He's got much better at playing tennis.
There are two forms to express possession in English. Have or have got.
She has a beautiful new home.She's got a beautiful new home.
While both forms are correct and accepted in both, have got (have you got, he hasn't got, etc.) is generally the preferred form in BE, while in AE people use have (do you have, he doesn't have etc.)
There are also a few differences in preposition use in American VS British English:
AE - on the weekend
BE- at the weekend
AE- on a team
BE - in a team
AE- please write me soon
BE- please write to me soon
In summary, there are several slight differences between American and British English. When you include differences in accent, the two versions of the language can seem quite different. This is something that should be considered when teaching English as a foreign language.
Nicole de Jager
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“We (the British and American) are two countries separated by a common language.”
British and American English are both variants of World English .The are more similar than different especially with “educated” and “scientific” English. Most divergence can be ascribed to differing histories and cultural development.
They are both the reference norms for English spoken, written and taught in the rest of the world. The English speaking members of the Commonwealth of Nations often naturally follow the Standard British English, although the dialects and idioms may differ.
American English has grown steadily in an international significance since the World War II., parallel to the growth of US political, economic, technical and cultural influence worldwide.
American English is currently the dominant influence largely due to the following:Population: the US vs. Great Britain Magnitude of the publishing industry Magnitude of global mass media and media technology influence Appeal of American pop culture on language habits International political and economic position of the US
There are many categories of difference between standard American English (SAM) and Standard British English (SBE). Following are the principal categories and examples that students may come across the most:
1. SpellingColor (Br.) - colour Cheque - check Ageing - aging Tyre - tire Humor - humour lavor - flavour Traveling - traveling licence - license
Words ending in -ise (Br.) - ize (Am.) - recognise - recognize
2. Use of the Present Perfect
In British English the present perfect is used to express an action that has occurred in the recent past that has an effect on the present moment.
Ex.: I have lost my wallet. Can you help me look for it?
I have just had dinner.
In American English the following is also possible:
I lost my wallet. Can you help me look for it?
I just had dinner.
It the SBE the above would be considered incorrect, however both forms are accepted in SAE.
There are two forms to express possession in English “have” and “have got”
While both forms are correct and accepted in both SBE and SAE. “have got” is more preferred form in British English while most speakers of American English use “have”
Ex.: Do you have a car? x Have you got a car?
He doesn’t have any books x He hasn’t got any books
4. Past participlegot (Br.) gotten burnt burned learnt learned spelt spelled dream dreamed leant- leaned
5. Prepositionsat the weekend (Br.) on the weekend in a team on a team please write to me soon please write me soon
6. Different words, same meaningAutumn (Br.) fall petrol - gas Ground floor first floor class - grade Rubbish - garbage tin - can
Of course we can find many more variations that would suggest how different the two languages are. But the direction of modern world tend to prove otherwise. New media and globalization enable more and more people to actively exchange their experience and ideas and therefore the differences in the versions of English are becoming less strict. The most important rule for both teachers and students is trying to be consistent in the usage of the language (pronunciation, spelling, grammar) but at the same time being open to changes depending particular culture, location and other attributes that change the way English is spoken or written.
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George Bernard Shaw once said that the United States and United Kingdom are "two countries divided by a common language." With an estimated 500 million speakers worldwide, English is the second most common language on the planet (Mandarin). . Still, an incredible difference exists between the two biggest strains, British English and American English.
One of the biggest differences between the two dominant dialects of English is their vocabulary. While an American “dude” and a British “bloke” were waiting in the “line/queue” for the “restroom/loo,” they could discuss the many differences between their two idioms. Meanwhile, someone in England refers to a “lorry,” and their American cousin is utterly confused and asks them, “Do you mean a semi?” Further confusion could ensue when the English cousin asks “Would you fancy a biscuit?” The cousin from America might be expecting something other than a “cookie,” something more like what his cousin might call a “scone.”
While “mad” in the U.S. is a synonym for “angry,” in the U.K. it means “crazy.” Lots of American people would think you “crazy” if you told them you were driving on the motorway (freeway), when through your windscreen (windshield), you noticed your bonnet (hood) was smoking. You pulled over on the verge (shoulder) and luckily you had some coolant in your boot (trunk). It was a good thing you didn’t run out of petrol (gas).
Similarly, if Johnny English arrived in The States he’d be quite surprised when he went to the mall (shopping centre). The salesman at the store (shop) would probably ask if he wanted pants (trousers) or underwear (pants). The salesman might ask what kind of diapers (nappies) his daughter needed and if his wife wanted a new purse (handbag) or panties (knickers). He could then take the elevator (lift) down to the next floor where there is a bar (pub), watch some soccer (football) on TV (telly) and get drunk (pissed).
One source of confusion always comes up whenever English and American students are conversing. Students aged from about five to eleven in America would probably be said to be in elementary school, whereas in the U.K., they would be said to be in ”primary school.” From ages twelve to fifteen American students are in middle school or junior high school and in the U.K., secondary school. American students are in high school from the age of fifteen to eighteen. Meanwhile, British students are in college from sixteen to eighteen. After that some American students go on to college while their British counterparts continue on to uni(versity).
Another centre or center of controversy is the spelling of words like “materialise” and “specialize.” Either spelling is considered correct, depending on which country you are in at the time of speaking. Other such examples include anything ending in “-ise” or “-ize”, like “capitalise” or “hypothesize”. Of course the British would never spell “size” with an “s” as the second to last letter, but that is neither here nor there.
Countries that had or still have strong ties to Britain, like Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, would typically prefer the British spellings, though the vocabulary in these countries varies widely because of the predominance of American television and film.
Wherever you are, it is important to learn what people call things there, so you can be in the know. It is also helpful to start adapting to the peculiarities of the speech patterns of the particular place you happen to be in, so that you can better communicate with the locals. You will find yourself the recipient of a lot less blank stares, “pardon’s” or “huh’s,” if you start referring to an “elevator” as a “lift” an vice versa. As they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
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In the world today everything is becoming global, in this globalization the language of choice is English. In space there are thousands of satellites orbiting the world, which are sending information in English to computers, television, radio, and cell phones. With this information we are able to communicate worldwide in English. Powered by telecommunications and the internet we are banking world wide in minutes, buying and selling stocks, importing all of the products we need, and tracking the weather. When you are traveling, English becomes your best friend. Of the seven continents, five of them have at least one English speaking country within them.
In many of the Pacific and Caribbean islands English is the language of choice. While traveling you may have to use the “ TOILET,” this word is used worldwide. When you get off the airplane English signs are there to direct you to your next flight or baggage. Then, when you go to rent a car or take a taxi to your hotel, English makes the task easier. When checking into your hotel, rates are often in the native language and English. When you leave the hotel to go shopping and on to dinner, the menu at the restaurant would be in the native language. If there is a second language it would be English.
I would like to tell you about my personal experience of the English language. I traveled to Vietnam last year and stayed for ninety days. I stayed in Ho Chi Minh City and I toured the city from the back of a motorcycle. While riding around I saw sign after sign that said English is the way to success. Vietnam has seventy million plus people, 70% are under thirty, and most want to learn English. There are hundreds of English Language Schools in Vietnam today. I went to three of the schools with a young teacher to see for myself. The students were as young as ten and as old as fifty, very polite and eager to learn. As I walked down the streets, teenage boys and girls would stop and talk to me in English. I had little boys and girls walking with their mother stop and say hello how are you. I had one mother ask me if I could go to her house on Sundays to talk English with her son who was studying English. When I got back to California, I went online to start a TESOL English certification course so I could go back to Vietnam to teach. After starting my course I had to go online and send emails. I then went on the internet and found many people from different countries that used English when they were online.
I agree with the people that say thirty percent of the internet users communicate through English, and that most business people from different countries have to use English in dealing with their English speaking customers and suppliers. From my point of view, English has become the global language. English speaking countries have become world powers in business and policies therefore they have an economic and political advantage over anyone who struggles to express themselves in the language.
World Internet Usage