Teach English in Taiping Zhen - Yongzhou Shi

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One of the greatest and most spoken about topics I have come across, both in the English language classroom and in general conversation with people from all walks of life, is the use of US English and British English, and which of the two is more ‘correct’ or ‘better’ to learn, or even what sounds nicer to the ear. This is, indeed, a controversial topic, because the ideas surrounding these questions will be more favourable to one use or the other, depending on the influences both types of English have in the country the student is studying in. Another factor that will affect opinions and thoughts on the subject is the personal history each student has with either of, or both types of English. And, how much they consume it in both professional and personal settings. Let's be frank. Neither type of English is entirely "more correct" than the other. On the whole, academically speaking, the language holds a strong enough mould of equality in its grammar structures and formal uses of the language. Therefore, in formal terms, one cannot necessarily be deemed "better" or "more correct" than the other, because they are essentially, the same. However the underlying differing subtleties of the language begin to become apparent in the teaching and learning of the language. These differences arise in the use of spoken English, spelling, idiomatic use, and using less formal degrees of the language. It is here that we can see subtle differences in spelling and stark differences in pronunciation, phrasal or idiomatic use. Furthermore, at a higher level of writing, there are of course, more complex sentence structure changes to become aware of, too. In Argentina, both US and British English are very popular. In society, Argentine people consume American pop culture by way of television shows, films, books, music, etc. Therefore, they are highly exposed to the language on a regular basis. However, the same thing occurs with British English. Now, the line drawn between the two is made in academic learning. In Argentina, when a student goes to take exams and obtain official certifications in language, the majority of people prefer to choose British English and UK-based boards of examination over American ones, as they are seen to be better recognised abroad. The majority of language schools and the school system in general ‘rate’ British English over American English, simply deeming it ‘better.’ In the business world, however, things are slightly different. It all depends on the company and the needs of that company. I worked with students from an international real estate firm in Buenos Aires and they all needed American English, because they had to engage and liaise with American clients and colleagues, both in person and over the phone. Therefore, in this particular case, it’d be fair to argue that American English is ‘better’ than British English, because there is a specific need to understand it and a specific need to put it into practice for the non-native learner. My experiences with language priorities were quite different in Mexico. In fact, it was the complete opposite of Argentina. US, or American English is favoured in Mexico over British English. In academic terms, institutes and schools all place a focus on prioritising American English usage in their learning systems. Now, if I were to make my own conclusions about “the why” of this phenomenon, I would assume that it be down to the fact that the country is next door, so there is a more tactile reason for people to take on, learn American English. People immigrate to the US from Mexico, or visit frequently for work purposes. On the whole, I have made a point of ensuring I learn as much American English as I can throughout my journalistic and academic career. But, when it comes to my students, I urge them to stick with one at a lower level and try to grasp the basics of the language, and when they reach a higher level, they can begin to venture into the other style of English. Because I am a native British English speaker, my go-to is British English and I then have the opportunity in speaking and listening to offer little bits of information to the student to show them what differences could arise in pronunciation or noun usage along the way. As previously mentioned though, I normally do this with students of an upper-intermediate to advanced level, as there we also have the possibility of delving into finer pronunciation details without it unravelling their comprehension of the class as a whole. To conclude, in my opinion, both British English and American English are both as important as each other, from an academic perspective and from an everyday use perspective. Regarding which should be put into practice in the world of English language learning, usually will depend on the influences on each student, their geographic local, their specific needs and capacity level. From there, each teacher can adapt their class in order to either pick up where another teacher left off, or begin from scratch with that particular student using the type of English that suits them best. Overall though, the most important thing for any student to be able to do, regardless of the style, is acquire a sufficient level of the language as a whole in order to be able to successfully understand and be understood.