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British english v American english“He’s a swell guy…??!! I’m really sorry but I can’t help you, Yukichan.” “But you plomised to help me with my Ingrish, Kebinsan…” Yukichan replied reproachfully. “I know I did and I would still like to help you…but I can’t …you see, this is American english.,,and it’s…. different!” So went the conversation between me and my assistant in an office in tokyo, japan in 1989. My assistant had just read out the sentence from her textbook describing a well-meaning man and all I had in my head was a fat man in a baseball shirt and cap slowly inflating until he burst! Perhaps I could have helped but a mixture of amusement and disdain prevented me from committing more of my time. Much of British english and American is so much the same it is understood easily while, in some cases, there has been a divergence that has resulted in different spellings, different word endings, different words for the same object and different meanings for the same word. It is not difficult to understand why. In the last 400 plus years the english language has changed dramatically since William Shakespeare trod the boards. And similarly, in those same 400 years American english has changed from that spoken by the first english settlers of Jamestown, usa in 1607. Further to this there was the work of 19th century writer Noah Webster who attempted to create an independent American language (ref 1). The early British explorers and the dominance of the British Empire has resulted in english being the global, international language of choice. However the decline of the British Empire combined with the rise of the USA as a superpower and, more recently, the worldwide use of computers and computer software built by American companies eg IBM and Microsoft has led to American english becoming more and more dominant. While I have been writing my assignments I have been fighting with the dictionary in MS Word which is obviously American and changes my “s” to “z” constantly. I shall just have to be more organized and change the dictionary – damn, it’s done it again! Perhaps I should go into Program Files on my computer…? But wait! Shouldn’t that be Programme Files? Then there are different words for the same common objects. If we want a drink of water in USA we might turn on the faucet. In the UK we would turn on the tap. Then there are the words which are the same but which have different meaning. This can lead to a good deal of confusion to say nothing of embarrassment, especially where slang words are concerned! For example, you might tell your American friend that his girlfriend fell on her backside. To which he is likely to reply “Well which is it? Her back or her side?” “Neither,” you say, pointing to your buttocks, “Oh!” says your friend, “you mean she fell on her fanny!” At which point there is a loud clang as a pin drops and your ageing mother fixes you with a withering look! Rather than list here all the main differences between British english and American english, I have attached a sheet with information courtesy of the source in ref 1. So teachers of TEFL will need to be aware of the differences, both subtle and obvious if they are to teach British english in an American english environment. They will need to consider their location and assess whether BE or AE is appropriate. They should be aware of the requirements of their students and whether they will be expected to cross from BE to AE. I expect that I will only be required to teach BE in my current area of Madrid but there are many American companies so, who knows?! In the not too distant future, I will travel to SE Asia and the Middle East and, without doubt, I shall come into contact with AE. Who knows? I may even become a swell guy…or a fat man wearing a baseball shirt and cap….or whatever?!! 673 words ref 1. http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-spelling-diverges-between-american-and-british-english/ MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BE AND AE -ae (encyclopaedia, mediaeval) AE usually deletes the a from the diphthong ae, which is unfortunate, because the words look so cool with it. It is retained, however, in such words asaesthetic (though that word is also spelled esthetic). -ed (fitted, forecasted, knitted) AE usually drops the past-tense ending in these words. However, exceptions are made in such usages as “The tailor fitted him for a tuxedo.” -ed [irregular] (lighted, strived) AE prefers forms such as lit and strove, though the BE forms are often employed. -ement (acknowledgement, arguement, judgement) AE omits the first e from the suffix, though some writers of AE remain unaware as far as the first and third examples are concerned. -ence (defence, licence, offence) AE spells these words with an s in place of a c. -ise/-yse (analyse, criticise, memorise, realise) AE favors -ize/-yze endings. -l (enrol, fulfil, skilful) AE doubles the l that is not part of -ful/ful-; the l in that syllable is never doubled (except in inflected forms of full). -lled/-lling (cancelled/cancelling, levelled/levelling, travelled/travelling) AE omits one l in this form; some writers of AE still haven’t received the memo. -mme (diagramme, programme, telegramme) AE omits the second m and the e at the end of these words. -ogue (analogue, catalogue, dialogue, epilogue) In AE, catalog is clipped, though the full form is preferred for all its analogues. (See?) -our (colour, favour, honour, labour) In AE, the u is jettisoned in most words with -our; glamour is an exception. -oeuvre (manoeuvre) AE simplifies this ending to -euver (maneuver). -que (banque, checque) In AE, the french-influenced -que is replaced by a Germanic k. -re (centre, litre, metre, theatre) In AE, the letters in the -re ending are reversed, though the BE spelling for the first and last examples is sometimes employed in proper names for facilities to convey Old World class. -st (amidst, amongst) In AE, amid and among are preferred, though many writers of AE, professionals and amateurs alike, retain the -st ending. -t (dreamt, leapt, learnt) AE replaces -t with -ed, though some writers of AE, out of ignorance or because they prefer the more poetically pleasing appearances, use the BE form. -wards (backwards, inwards, upwards) AE omits the -s, though many writers of AE retain it (often inconsistently from one word to another). -xion (complexion, connexion) This suffix is unique to complexion, spelled identically in AE and BE, and connexion, now almost obsolete in the United Kingdom.