TEFL British vs American English

One of the more noticeable differences between students on the TEFL course is the different uses of the English language. The main differences being between the British and American English. On area that I thought could have become confusing when teaching would be the pronunciation of different words by different English speakers. As a rule it is generally agreed amongst English teaching programs that neither type of pronunciation is the correct version however they do insist on consistence of usage. So when a person starts to teach in British English using relevant terms they should maintain that throughout. Grammatically both types of the language follow the same rules. However there are variations? of form words that are used. For example the past participle for the word get in American English is commonly used as gotten ?he has gotten much better? where as in British English got would be used ?he?s got much better?. The change of vocabulary could also be an area of confusion. For example: Pavement and sidewalk, trunk and boot, hood and bonnet. These word differences could become a problem if the students are not familiar with that alternative term. I witnessed this in the classroom amongst students. The word ?Vacation? was used and the students who had up until that point had a full grasp on the lesson vocabulary all became very baffled. Unfortunately the teacher did not spot the cause of this and was unable to continue down that path of teaching as they did not understand how to get around it. If the teacher had been more aware of the British term for it I am sure that the students would have been able to understand. This to me shows a clear example of the necessary understanding teacher?s need of both the British English and American English as students may have learnt a mixture of both.

There are also differences in the use of prepositions between the two. Using British English you would say ?what are you doing at the weekend? where as in American English you would more likely say? what are you doing on the weekend?? Similarly with ?in a team? in British and ?on a team? in American. Again this is something that a teacher would need to be aware of when teaching the use of prepositions as neither can be considered wrong. The last of the most noticeable differences is spelling. As a rule words ending in ?or? are spelt using ?our in British and ?or in American and ?ize? endings are -ise in British but ?ize in American.

Before I began the course I thought that British English really should be the target language used. I could not get my head around how that using a mix would not just confuse the students. However as I have progressed through the course I have seen how the students seem to be very adaptive and I have only seen one instance where the use of different words affected the class. I now therefore think that both uses are expectable although basic knowledge should be had of both so that the teacher is in a position to explain differences if needed.

Author: Kim Backler

Date of post: 2007-04-02