British English vs American English. Which is Better?
2019-04-25 Jon ITTT Alumni Experiences
As more and more countries place a growing importance on its people to learn English as a secondary language, for work purposes or for general use, there is a growing debate about which is the better English to learn - British English or American English.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Max E.
The argument stems from the growing influence of America in the modern world. British English has a longer standing history, but in today's modern society, it is almost impossible to go through the day without hearing American English in use. We hear it in television programs and films, more businesses from the US are branching out to foreign soil, and many countries feel that American English may be the better choice, as in the future it is more likely they will encounter American English more regularly.
Both versions are essentially the same
The argument itself is pointless on the whole, as by large both versions of English are essentially the same, the main difference being spelling and use of certain words unique to each country. However, the question remains of what English Language teachers should do; which version is better for them to teach new students?
Prioritise teaching “Good English”
English teachers should consider the need to use both in the classroom. As both versions of English share such similarities, it is not worth knit picking on a regular basis, as it may cause confusion in the students. The teacher must focus on teaching "Good English", that is to say, English that the students can learn and use, rather than one version of English over the other.
Certain students may need specific versions of English
That being said, sometimes it will be necessary to apply specific versions of English to specific situations. For example; Japanese businesses have a growing need to use American English in their emails and translations, owing to the strong ties between Japan and America. In the same way, Indian school students would benefit more from learning British English, as India and the United Kingdom have close ties.
Points to consider when choosing a version to teach
Therefore, an English language teacher would need to consider the following points when deciding which version of English to teach:
The cultural influences of his students - where are they from? Which version of English are they more likely to encounter?
The backgrounds of the students - are they school children or businessmen? Are they learning for business reasons or for pleasure?
These are topics that an English Language teacher should be considering in any case, but when facing the debate on whether to teach British English or American English, the necessity becomes much greater.
Exploring the differences can be an interesting lesson
Equally, a teacher might want to use the differences to his or her advantage. They can use the fact that there is a difference as a basis for an entire lesson, either as a fun break from the course, or because they feel it is important to know the difference.
Also read: 7 Awesome Ideas for Business English Classes
Don’t get obsessed with minor differences
However, once again it is important for teachers to remember that both versions are essentially the same. English is English, the grammar and vocabulary remain the same, even the sentence structure, so worrying about the minor details between British and American English will simply take time away from learning the important parts. English teachers should always prioritize teaching accurate and usable English to their students, regardless of which version that may be.
In conclusion, the argument of British English vs American English, while important to keep a note of, should not overrule a teacher's English language course. The priority should always be to be a good English teacher.
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