Teach English in Huiping Zhen - Nantong Shi

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Until the 1990s British English (BE) was considered the only model for ESL learners in most countries, over the last 3 decades however American English (AE) has come to be considered a usable and effective model for ESL teachers and learners (Benson, 1989). Having said that, a non-English speaker might be confused and wonder what the differences are between BE and AE and how it came to be that there are any differences at all between the two. One can look at BE and AE as two dialects of the English language. British English is the original base of American English. When British settlers settled in America, their language became affected by the Native American Pidgin English, French, Spanish, Dutch and more recently Italian, German and some Chinese. Over time with some of the settlers returning back to the British Isles and more recently due to globalisation AE has added to BE vocabulary and has thus influenced BE with what is referred to as “Americanisms”. (Abu Fares, 2019). The differences between British English and American English can be categorised according to some aspects of the English language such as pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and spelling. (Strevens, 1972). Where vocabulary is concerned the words used for certain semantic areas such as food, clothing and transport differ because of the separation of the nations whilst said semantics evolved. (Millward, 1996). Where in BE one would say biscuits, one would say cookies in AE or in BE one might say trainers where in AE they would say sneakers or running shoes. These are just a few examples of the many differences in vocabulary between BE and AE. Another aspect worth noting in the difference between BE and AE vocabulary is usages, for example in AE the word 'mad’ is often used to describe “anger” or “upset” whilst in BE it may be used to say “crazy”. (Abu Fares, 2019). In terms of grammar there are some auxiliary verbs that are commonly used in British English that are not used at all in American English, i.e. shall, shan’t (shall not) and needn’t (need not). The auxiliary verb shall is used in BE to express the future or an intention to do something for example “I shall do the groceries tomorrow.”, in AE the auxiliary verb “shall” would be replaced by “will”. Shall in BE, may also be used in question form for example, “What shall we have for dinner?” where as in AE the question would be “What should we have for dinner?” Another difference between BE and AE is past tenses, regular verbs such as learned and burned (AE) the –ed added to the verb is replaced with –t in BE. Some past participles may also change, where in AE –en may added for example “I had never gotten away with it”, in BE they may omit the -en and thus the sentence would read “I had never got away with it”. (Brock, 2017) The last main difference between British English and American English is spelling. Words that would in British English be spelt with 'ou’ e.g. labour, colour, or flavour, in American English the ‘u’ would be dropped. A different example would be words like organise, or familiarise (BE), in AE they would spell them with as follows; organize and familiarize. There are some linguistics and other scholars of the English language that would argue that there are no essential differences between the two dialects, Thomas Pyles in 1993 stated that “The English Language in all its national varieties throughout the world is remarkably uniform… English is unmistakably one language.” The differences between the two dialects, British English and American English may range from significant to slight, but they are there. References: Abu Fares, A. (2019). British English and American English: History and Differences. 1st ed. [ebook] International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation. Available at: https://publication.ijllt.org/publications/290205/british-english-and-american-english-history-and-differences [Accessed 17 Feb. 2020]. Benson, M. (1989). Differences between American English and British English: A Challenge to TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 23(2), p.351. Brock, A. (2017). Six Differences Between British and American English. [online] VOA. Available at: https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/six-difference-between-britsh-and-american-english/3063743.html [Accessed 17 Feb. 2020]. Strevens, P. (1972). British and American English. 1st ed. Collier-Macmillan.