British English vs American EnglishIntro
English is spoken worldwide, either as the mother tongue or second language. Consequently a substantial variety of different dialects exist in the English language. Two most widely recognised of these dialects used when teaching TEFL are British English (BE), defined as the form of English used in the united kingdom, and American English (AE) the particular form of English used in the united states
By 1921 the British ?held sway? over approximately a quarter of the worlds population! The English language was first introduced to America in 1607 during the British colonization. Over the past 400 years the English used in America has deviated in numerous ways resulting in two dialects with differences such as; pronunciation, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, idioms, formatting of dates and numbers, and occasionally tense formatting.
One key contribution, important in formalising the difference between the two dialects, was when Noah Webster wrote the first American dictionary (published in 1828). Oscar Wilde once wrote ?We have everything in common with the American people, except of course the language.? (the Caterville Ghost 1888)
Rather than providing a comprehensive list of all imaginable variations between British and AE I have limited myself to key areas. I?ve chosen those I believe that are most noticeable differences and potential problems within TEFL.
The most noticeable differences to a foreign student between the two dialects would be the pronunciation, the ways in which a word or language is spoken or the manner it?s expressed. Pronunciation differences are not limited to America and england, occurring throughout the UK where BE varies substantially due to a very long history of dialect development within isolated areas, within different countries and different regions!
This poses one argument often put forward for learning AE rather than British as the regional differences in pronunciation are less varied. Being a modern country movements across states and regions have occurred over a long period of its development, regional dialects are therefore not as strong and potentially difficult to understand as within Britain. Interestingly the Received Pronunciation, Standard English, remains the accent on which the dictionary is based but is only spoken by 2-5% of the UK population!
One main differences in pronunciation is the different stress the two accents place on the words e.g. ?advertisement? which sounds different in BE than AE. Although a very small difference it can result in the word sounding very different to a none native english speaker. Americans put a lot more enfaces on the letter ?r? compared to British in which sometimes the ?r?, particularly on the end of words is barely audible. Americans also have a tendency to omit letters when speaking so that the word ?facts? turns into ?fax?.
However pronunciation taught in a TEFL class really relies on the dialect of the teacher, and students picking up their own dialect depending upon the people he/she uses their English with.
The next key difference is spelling, BE has kept a lot of spelling to its French origins, whereas Americans tend to spell words phonetically, removing unpronounced letters.
Grammar is another key issue when teaching TEFL as although the differences are not greatly significant between the two languages, there are discrepancies.
Use of the Present Perfect, often a difficult tense for students, varies between the two e.g. BE uses, ?I?ve already eaten? whereas in AE they would use the past tense ?I ate already? which is grammatically incorrect BE.
Adverbs are another area in which the two often differ, due to the fact that Americans tend to use adjectives rather than adverbs e.g. ?That?s really good? is often used in Britain whereas Americans would use ?that?s real good?
Plurals & Modals
In addition, learners may also note some accountable nouns in BE have no plural form whereas they do in the US (e.g. types of food, UK & foods, US). In england we also use more modals such as ?shall? and ?ought to? than in America.
To conclude, as our world becomes smaller due to technology and globalisation these differences are likely to diminish, this has been proven through our language development just in the past decade. Nevertheless despite American and British English being mutually intelligible, there remains enough differences to cause misunderstandings; anyone teaching EFL should be clear as to which version they use.