British English Vs American English The distinction between British English


The distinction between British English and American English came about in the seventeenth century after British colonialist settled in North America. Over the years, influences from Irish, Scottish, Spanish and French immigrants amongst many, have led to what is now known as modern American English. There are variations in pronunciation and intonation within American English, most notably between northern and southern states; however in its written form it is highly standardized. The Midwest accent as it is vaguely termed is most widely used in television and in most media. This has largely come to be accepted as mainstream American English, and is what most foreign language speakers come to know through Hollywood broadcasts and multimedia around the world.

British English in its oral form is more difficult to standardize and comprehend, as the development of local variations and dialects started a lot earlier in history. This makes it difficult for foreign language speakers and native English speakers alike to understand the variations from area to area. Television English or the Queen’s English as it has been coined has become accepted as the mainstream dialect in the United Kingdom. Amusingly however, it is said that this dialect does not actually trace back to any group of people other than those in the British media and the Queen. For academic purposes, this is the version of British English that is normally taught to foreign language speakers.

Depending on where you are teaching in the world, students will have their preference as to which version they would like to learn. Countries in South and Central America generally sway towards American English due to their proximity to the United States. Similarly, countries in Europe tend to prefer British English as most dealings within Europe, especially in the European Union, tend to be in British English. Other areas such as in Asia and Africa tend a little more towards American English; however it largely depends on the school and the individual students as to which version is taught.

The variation between the two versions is noticeable in both its written and oral forms. In its written form there are many obvious differences such as the use of ‘ise’ and ‘ize’ in words like standardise /standardize or the ‘our’ and ‘or’ in words like ‘flarour / flavor’.

The way the two dialects sound is also very different and can be confusing to non native English speakers. An example of this is the pronunciation of words like dance and trance. In American English, ‘dance’ and ‘trance’ both rhyme with the word ‘ants’; as appose to British English where the two words sound closer to the word ‘cars’. Sentence structures can also vary between the two dialects such as in the use of the present perfect tense. In British English one would say ‘I’ve coloured my hair’ however in American English one might say ‘I colored my hair’ and still be correct.

For all practical purposes it is important for the teacher to be aware of the students needs when teaching either American English or British English. It is a good idea that students are exposed to all kinds of English, both American and British, although it is important to be consistent in which version is taught in the class. This can be ensured by taken practical measures like adjusting the spell check on your computer so your lesson plans are consistent.

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Sources – I read an article from a website called about.com and an article on wikipedia . I have hyperlinked these two articles in as my references. Nothing was actually copied directly. I just read the two articles, spoke to American and British friends of mine and wrote my findings.