TEFL British English vs American English

Giving English to an American is like giving sex to a child. He knows it´s important but he doesn´t know what to do with it. Adam Cooper (19th century)

The Americans are identical to the British in all respects except, of course, language. Oscar Wilde

There are more varieties of English than just British and American English, however these are the two which are most commonly taught in EFL and ESL programs. Of the two, American English, for a variety of reasons has become the more dominant. Its influence has been growing steadily since World War Two as American economic, military and political power has expanded. Globalisation and the expansion of the Western, and in particular, the American way of life has heavily contributed to this.

There are numerous ways in which the two forms of the English language differ. One is seen in a list of vocabulary which although spelt the same, is pronounced differently. These words include Controversy, Laboratory, Leisure, schedule, dynasty and dance . There are also words which are spelt differently but are pronounced the same, such as Colour ? color, Centre ? center, Defense ? defense and Gaol ? jail . There are also times where the same words are used but there are additional or different meanings. Examples of these phrases include GB ´Trousers´ = US ´Pants´; US ´Pants´ = GB ´underwear pants´ and GB ´Jumper´ = US ´Sweater´; US ´Jumper´ = GB Pinafore [dress].

There are also grammatical differences between the two forms of English. In the present perfect for example,

In British English: I´ve lost my key. Can you help me look for it? In American English the following is also possible: I lost my key. Can you help me look for it?

The above American English would and indeed should be considered incorrect. Another example of American English being incorrect is regarding possession.

British English: She has a beautiful new home. American English She´s got a beautiful new home

There is also a disparity between the two versions of the English language in the past participle of the verb get. In American English the past participle of the verb get is gotten. For example He´s gotten much better at playing tennis. In British English however ? He´s got much better at playing tennis.

Clearly therefore there are numerous differences between the two forms of the English language. Despite being the elder of the two, and most likely the correct version, British English is not as common as American English, even computer spell checkers attempt to replace correct British words. It is however most important to be consistent in your usage of the language. After all, for the users of American English it is better to be consistently wrong, than occasionally correct. site= site= site= site= site= site=

Author: Owen Broughton

Date of post: 2006-08-25