British English vs. American English Introduction English is today the
Introduction English is today the dominant international language in most parts of the world. It is spoken by an estimated 300-400 million people as a native language and by an estimated two billion people as a second language. It is by far the most widely taught and understood language in the world. The use of English in so many parts of the world by so many people has inevitably produced a number of national and regional variations. For historical and political reasons, the most commonly used variations are British and American English. These variations should not be understood as unvaryingly homogeneous dialects, as many regional differences can be observed within them. Nevertheless, one may say that there is a standard version of British English and a standard version of American English. Of course, it should be pointed out that there are more similarities than differences between them. After all, notwithstanding all the differences, English remains one and the same language. Nevertheless, there are in some cases important differences, which may at times cause confusion or misunderstandings even between native speakers. The most important of them include differences in accent, pronunciation, spelling, lexis, and grammar.
Teaching British English or American English' Students will often ask, 'Which is better'', 'Which is more correct'', 'Which is easier''. Since this is a matter of personal viewpoint, the answer they get each time depends on the person who gives it. British and American people and, consequently, teachers often tend to praise their respective dialects as 'better', 'more correct', 'more polite', 'clearer', 'simpler', 'more prestigious', and so on. Non-native speakers teaching English may share the views of either side depending on which dialect they have been exposed to, or they may have a very personal impression, which may not be very different from that of a student, or may have no opinion at all. In every case, a biased answer implies that the students should use this or that dialect. Such an attitude ignores the scientific fact that no language or dialect can be regarded as better that another and that each is capable of expressing the ideas and feelings of its speakers. Instead of trying to impose their personal views on the students, teachers should leave it up to them to decide which dialect they prefer to use. This is, of course, not always easy, as students are often primarily exposed to one of them or they lack the knowledge and experience required to be able to distinguish between the two. Students, nevertheless, often come across things they have been taught differently, and it is only natural for them to wonder. The teacher, then, should be able to explain the differences without forcing the students to adopt one or the other as more correct or more proper, but simply saying that this is a matter of choice. It should be pointed out, however, that, whatever their choice is, they should stick to it as consistently as possible. Conclusion Learning British or American English consistently requires that a student have only British or only American teachers and only British or only American course books. This is rarely the case. In the course of their study, students usually have both British and American teachers and very often teachers from other countries as well, both native and non-native speakers. It is, therefore, more likely that a student will get an idea of many different variations and develop some sort of international English. This is not necessarily a drawback, since English does have many variations but at the same time remains a consistent language. To the extent that a student can adopt one variation consistently, this might help make a good impression, but what is far more important is for a student to achieve fluency and accuracy in English, which is one global language regardless of its diversities.
References 'American vs. British English - Basic Differences and Influences of Change: http://www.uta.fi/FAST/US1/REF/usgbintr.html 'British vs. American English: http://www.english-test.net/articles/5/index.html 'Differences Between American and British English: http://esl.about.com/library/weekly/aa110698.htm 'Spelling differences between American and British English: http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwesl/egw/jones/differences.htm 'Recognizing grammatical differences between American and British English ' article: http://www.onestopenglish.com/section.asp'catid=59612&docid=152820 'Recognizing grammatical differences between American and British English - tips and activities: http://www.onestopenglish.com/section.asp'catid=59612&docid=152821 'Wikipedia: American and British English differences: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English_differences