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ESL Education in Turkey: ✅ British English vs. American English

ESL Education in Turkey: ✅ British English vs. American English | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Today, English has become a common language of people with different native languages in many fields such as science, aviation, communication, and commerce. For this reason, knowledge of English has become a necessity for those who want to pursue an academic career or who want to work in internationally recognized business sectors. This fact puts English in the first place among the officially taught foreign languages in most countries. But which English should be referenced in English education? British or American English? The answer to this question is not clear in Turkey yet. In seeking a heuristic explanation, one can dwell on which version is more common in the world, how similar or different these two dialects are, and which one is more easy or difficult to learn.

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

British or American?

At the outset, whether British English or American English should be referenced raises the question of which English is more common in the world. A classical approach to find the answer is to look at the number of people who speak two types of English. According to demographic data, around 450 million people are native speakers of English. It can be said that 66.4 million people talk to British English in the United Kingdom, and 327.2 million people speak American English in the United States. Even if it is assumed that those living in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand also speak British English, the result will favor American English. Considering that there is an apparent hegemony of the USA in terms of movies, TV series, science, technology, politics, and international affairs, it is not wrong to say that American English also has superiority over British English in terms of culture and science.

Main Differences

Second of all, it is helpful to know the differences between British English and American English. It may not be easy to distinguish between the two types for a person who is not native in English. Some linguists say that the difference between British and American English has deepened over the centuries, while others point out that the difference is now around 1% and has been growing. Media, the internet, and globalization play a significant role in this situation.

The accent difference comes first to mind when the differences between British and American English are examined. There is no doubt a distinctive difference between British and American English in terms of pronunciation of certain words. This difference can be felt most apparently when BBC World and CNN International channels are watched one after another. Second, there are spelling differences between the two English dialects. Differences in spelling mostly appear in vocabulary derived from Latin, such as the words "color, and catalogue." These words are written in color and catalog in American English. Another difference arises in terms of the meanings of words. Some of the well-known examples of using different words for the same objects are rubber/eraser, lift/elevator, etc. Finally, there are some grammatical differences between British English and American English. The most significant grammatical differences can be seen in using prepositions and the classification of names as singular and plural.

Benefits for the Education System

Lastly, the question of which English should be taught in the Turkish Education System raises the more complex or more accessible question. There is no scientific certainty about whether British English or American English is more difficult or easier to understand and speak. Some people find British English, and others find American English difficult and incomprehensible. It is impossible to scientifically prove or refute that one of the two is more complicated than the other. This is entirely a matter of perception of someone who is learning English.

In light of these considerations, one can find confusion in Turkey referring to the current state of English teaching. This is because the Turkish Ministry of Education has not made an official choice between British and American English as an academic English language and has not put a legal obligation. It is seen that written material used in schools is prepared mainly in British English. However, verbal materials such as dialogs and movies are primarily prepared in American English. Furthermore, British and American English words are taught in a mixed way in word cards.

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In conclusion, there is no exact answer to which English should be taught in Turkey. The English language went beyond being a course and has become a necessity, especially for international education and various business fields. Students exposed to a mix of British English and American English in Turkey are torn between these two types. The important thing is to ensure integrity in reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills, whichever one is taught. To that end, teachers should be familiar with both British and American English and communicate the differences accurately to their students. Students will make their personal choices between the two English during their adult education.

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