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English Variants: British vs. American

English Variants: British vs. American | ITTT | TEFL Blog

In this essay, we are going to talk about two different versions of English which are American and British English.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate ANDRII D. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

HISTORY

The English were introduced to America through British colonization in the early 17th century. It also spread to many other parts of the world due to the power of the British empire. Over many years American and British spoken English started diverging from each other in different aspects. This led to new dialects in the form of American English.

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ACCENT

The Americans and British both speak English, yet when they speak they sound completely different. This is mainly because they tend to have different accents. Each of them speaks a whole different dialect. The Americans use American English, whereas the British utilize British English. This is one of the major contributors to different accents. However, when speaking about the American and British Accents, it can be misleading to say ‘American Accent’ and ‘British Accent’. The reason for this is the fact that there are many different types of American Accents and many British Accents. The world is most familiar with an American Accent known as General American. There are also varieties of British accents such as Cockney, Estuary English (Southeast British), West Country (Southwest British), Midlands English, Brummie (Birmingham English), Northern England English, Geordie, Welsh English, Scottish English, and many more regional accents. Let’s talk about some specific differences.

General American:

  • Rhotic: This means that the ‘r’ at the end of the word is pronounced
  • No Trap-bath split: Certain ‘a’ words, like bath, can’t, and dance, are pronounced with the short-a, as in cat.
  • The letter “T” in the middle of a word can be pronounced like a fast “D”

General British:

  • Non-rhoticity: This means that the ‘r’ at the end of the word is not pronounced.
  • Trap-bath split: These words are instead pronounced with the broad-a as in father.
  • The letter “T” in the middle of a word cannot be pronounced like a fast “D”

The other difference between the two accents is that the American Accent is easier to understand than the British Accent. It is also the most commonly used accent in the world; however, the British Accent is more idolized and considered to be sexier.

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VOCABULARY

The English language developed over hundreds of years. During that time, it was changing a lot. It was adding new words from languages like Latin, French, and German, and it was also changing existing English words. The language is still changing right now, so what sounds “normal” now may be “weird” in 100 years!. Over the years, most of the British colonies got independence. This allowed the English they spoke to change slowly. At the same time, the way people in Britain spoke English was also changing, but not in the same way as in the colonies. There are indeed many differences between British and American English, but there are many more similarities. If you can speak, read or understand someone speaking one variety of English, you’ll also probably be able to understand most of the other varieties with no problem.

SPELLING

Here are some general differences between British and American spellings: Examples of words that end in -or in American English and -our in British English: color/color, humor/humor, flavor/flavor Examples of words that end in -ize in American English and -ise in British English: recognize/recognise, patronize/patronise The best way to make sure that you are being consistent in your spelling is to utilize the spell-check tool associated with your word processor and select the type of English (American or British) you'd like to use

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GRAMMAR

Fortunately, British and American grammar isn’t very different, however, there are still some differences. For instance, in American English, collective nouns are considered singular (e.g. The band is playing). In contrast, collective nouns can be either singular or plural in British English, although the plural form is most often used (e.g. The band is playing). The British are also more likely to use formal speech, such as ‘shall’, whereas Americans favor the more informal ‘will’ or ‘should’.
In British English, ‘at’ is the preposition about time and place. However, in American English, ‘on’ is used instead of the former and ‘in’ for the latter.

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As the most-spoken second language on the planet, English has to be flexible. After all, it’s not solely spoken in the countries we’ve detailed above. So whether you speak English like a British or like an American, this should not be an obstacle when communicating with people on the opposite side of the pond, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

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