Should I teach British English or American English?
As a professional English tutor, every now and then this question rises up: should I teach British English or American English? Before we answer the question, let’s see how many versions of English exist:
We can think of British English, American English, Australian English, South African English, Canadian English. But let’s just focus on one pair which most of the English course materials are based on them: British and American.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Oleksandr P. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
What are the differences?
We categorize the differences in for main groups:
- Accent: the first thing we notice is the difference in accent. American is rhotic but British is not. Also, some consonants are pronounced differently such as t and d.
- Vocabulary: There are different words for similar ideas and items. For example, what is called rubber in the UK is called eraser in the US. And there are many more
- Spelling: some spellings are also different. Such as practice in British is spelled practice in American.
- Grammar: there are also some minor differences in grammar. Nevertheless, I always tell my students that the British and American are the same languages!
Which one should be taught?
Well, it depends:
First of all, you need to know your students’ goals of learning English: are they learning English to immigrate to an English speaking country? Or is it for business talks? If your students are going to immigrate or study in an English speaking country, definitely it would be helpful to learn the exact accent spoken in that country. It will make them much more comfortable to find themselves in an environment who speak the same as they had learned in their class.
What if the students are learning English for business talks in different countries or just for travel?
If this is the case it really doesn’t matter which accent to learn. So, this doesn’t make your job easier. Since they are likely to encounter both versions and your responsibility is to prepare them for it. How can you conduct this type of course? What I usually do is, I base the course on British English. I think one advantage of learning British English is that when a student learns it, it will be easy to understand American English, but the opposite is not true. But I use both American and British materials during the course. Whenever it is necessary I mention the differences in order to help them learn both. Please keep in mind if your student has already picked up an accent, help him/her to keep it and improve it that way and not force him/her to change it.
What materials to use?
There are many courses out there for each version of English which you can use. I can recommend a couple of them which I had used over the years and came in very handy.
If you are going to conduct a standard British English course for adults, you can use New Headway published by Oxford University. It comes from beginner to advanced levels and you find it on this website: elt.oup.com Good news is, this course also has an American version and makes your job much easier to switch between two language options since once you get acquainted with one, it’s very time saving and comfortable to work with the other.
If your students are young learners, I recommend the Family and friend series. It has six levels in which the first is a starter. This course is also published by Oxford University. This course, as you can guess, is based on British English but it also has an American version.
Are you ready to teach English abroad?
So, I hope you got an image of how to choose the correct option for your own course and where to find its materials.
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