vs American EnglishYou say either and I say either.
You say neither and I say neither.
Either! Either! Neither! Neither!
Let’s call the whole thing off.
The joke only works in this song when hearing Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong singing it. The tune is about a couple who cannot make their relationship work because, among other reasons, one of them pronounces the word either as “ee-ther” and the other says “ahy-ther”. Silly? Yes, but relationships can founder because of such a seemingly minor communication breakdown. In British english
VS American english
, I will briefly touch upon two areas: phonology and orthography and what a teacher of ESL is to do when confronted with students who may, for example, have spent their formative years with a teacher from London and now have an ELS instructor from Des Moines (the S is silent in both Des and Moines).
So here we have a language where the same word spelled the same way can have two different pronunciations. Conversely, as we plow (or is it plough?) deeper into the issue, one english
word can have two different spellings, yet they are pronounced the same. The inconsistencies and irregularities of the english
language and its spelling can be quite confusing, for both the student and the native ESL teacher. For example:
: British english
In a perfect world these minor differences between British and American english
would not exist. Indeed, in a perfect world the english
language, with all its illogical rules, exceptions and freakish eccentricities, would not exist. The mnemonic I before E except after C rule immediately comes to mind. Tell that to “species” and “science” and the rest of the “cie” gang of anarchists. But I digress. The above examples show how American english
attempts to spell more closely to the pronunciation, whereas British english
keeps its french
origin (possibly because the english
are neighbours--er-uh... neighbors). In fact, British english
and American english
cannot even agree on the pronunciation of the letter Z. Nonetheless, we can be thankful that there are more similarities than there are differences between British and American english
. Returning to pronunciation, the goal (of the ESL teacher) should be changed from the attainment of “perfect” pronunciation (British or American) to the more realistic goal of developing functional intelligibility communicability, increased self-confidence, the development of speech monitoring abilities and speech modification strategies for use beyond the classroom (Morley, 1991; 500). The ESL teacher’s main goal should be to facilitate the learning process so the learner develops the skill to communicate in english
In the end, if the ESL teacher’s school does not have a policy on what to follow (British or American english
), the solution is simple: be flexible and use common sense. What is english
but a language, and what is language but communication. Whether or not a student spells color/colour with or without a U or pronounces tomato as toe-ma-toe is inconsequential to the larger picture. What is important is that the student is communicating in english
to someone and that that someone understands him or her. After all, english
itself is a flexible language. It is my opinion that exposure to both is more of a positive experience than a negative one. Another thing to keep in mind: teaching english
needs to be approached with a healthy dose of humor. As Oscar Wilde so succinctly said, “We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.”
Morley, J. (1991) The Pronunciation Component in Teaching english
to Speakers of Other Languages. TESOL Quarterly 25/1 51-574