British English vs American EnglishA dilemma that faces many students today is whether to study British English or American English. Some non-native English teachers also get into the array of choices ? to complete their teacher training in the US or Great Britain. Occasionally, newspapers that advertise English teacher vacancies could be specific in their requirements. Some schools might also be conscious about the differences when hiring a new teacher. Others don?t care all that much about the contrast ? they either see no technical differences or simply don?t care. As a potential student or a parent who is seeking an English teacher for their child, should you be really concerned about the type of English that you or your child is being taught in the classroom?
As a boy I was growing up in the Soviet Union. My primary English education was based on what was called proper (or Queen?s) English. In our classroom you would never see any books other than those of Cambridge and Oxford publishers. Names, such as Murphy, Swan, O?Connor and others would make up the inventory of books we would consider our bibles. The only English-English dictionaries I would ever use were Longman, Oxford Learners? and Cambridge ? all that originated within the boundaries of the British Isles. Not only did I not see any of the American publications I, along with other peers, wasn?t aware at all of the existence of the American English. Anything ?american? or ?america? seemed as distant and intangible as a moon resembling a pie slice in the night sky. Or at least that was my perception as a kid. Later, when the ?iron curtain? went down the idea of American culture became more real and quite apparent with influx of ?goodies? from a distant continent. American culture arrived in numbers ? movies, music, TV shows, food, McDonalds ? every household literally was effected one way or another. That was also the first time when I was introduced to a different accent ? American. Still a boy and quite unconscious of reality I was nevertheless captivated by this discovery. I experienced Columbus sort of a moment. And a couple years later my family moved to the US. My first practical acquaintance with American English occurred in a café in Chicago where a barista would refuse to understand my ?may I have a cup of hot tea? utterance due to the fact that I pronounced it in a British sort of way - /hot/ instead of American /ha:t/ with an aspirate ?t? sound. A couple years down the road, the school and the surrounding leveled out any phonetic ?irregularities? deemed foreign to an American system of education. Despite that, the idea of ?British vs. American? has always fascinated me to a great extent.
Nowadays, what may govern students in choosing one variety over the other is the application
of the language in the future ? studying in the UK or North America, working for British or American firm, changing a place of permanent residence, personal likes/dislikes, etc. The major factor is probably school and college education. Choosing British English would probably be more logical if one considers getting educated in the UK. You might also take into account the tests/examinations required by a college/university or a particular institution in various countries. IELTS and TOEFL are assumably the most widespread and known tests out there. TOEFL was introduced in the US and is required by all foreign students trying to get into a college in the united states
whereas IELTS is necessary for those who are planning to study in Canada, UK and New Zealand. Even though the structure of both tests is slightly different, they are essentially similar and frequently accepted by American and British universities alike. So ultimately, it doesn?t matter what English form you choose
as long as you stay consistent in your studies. There are a number of differences one should be aware of. Pronunciation and accents are the most distinct. These include word stress (e.g. address: BrE ? /??dres/, AmE ? /?ædres/), phonological differences (e.g. 1. Pot: BrE /pot/, AmE /pa:t/ 2. Due: BrE /dju:/, AmE /du:/, etc). The spelling of certain words (e.g.flavour - flavor, organise ? organize, centre - center) and vocabulary (railway -railroad, truck - lorry) add further distinction.
An English teacher might want and rather should pinpoint some of the major differences to students. As far as choosing either of the forms, it shouldn?t matter much. After all, both British and American English are the reference norms for English studied and taught in the rest of the world. Besides, the idea of the ?world flattening? applied
to commerce by Thomas Friedman in The World is Flat could relate to various English forms that might converge into one linguistic standard in the near future.