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As an English teacher in a school, you may not be lucky enough to have a choice. There are many teaching institutions that have a policy in place that dictates this for you. You must teach American English or you must teach British English, and varying from this is not permitted. But in ignoring one or the other variation, are you fully meeting your obligation to teach the student English? Many argue that American English is universal or standard English. This can be a lot to do with its popularity and widespread use via the mediums of movies and TV broadcasts etc. Or it can even be that this was in following the principles of the American Noah Webster, who was frustrated by the seeming lack of standard in British English and set about producing a new dictionary with word spellings based on the word pronunciation. There is even a belief that part of this changing of the language was also to promote a cultural difference between Britain and America. But it is because of culture that I believe you need to acknowledge both variations. Consider this; a language is more than just the words and grammar rules that make it up. A language is also a reflection on the origins and culture of where that language is in use. In Asian languages where pictographs are used, the pictographs are simplified pictures of what the person is referring to. In many instances, you can see where several pictographs are joined together to form a new one. While you may not have known a particular pictograph, by knowing some of the simpler ones it is possible for you to determine the meaning of another. This is the same for English and by changing spellings, you are interrupting the etymology that in turn could cause confusion later. Knowing the building blocks of a language can greatly assist you later when you encounter variations of the language beyond local dialects. Consider the following request that I received from a colleague in my office. “I would like to prepone our meeting to 4 pm today”. The request contained a word that I had never encountered previously, but with an understanding of the origins of words I was able to understand and respond to it. Prepone may sound strange to both British and American ears, but has been in use in Indian English for over 100 years, formed by “pre” meaning before, and “pone” meaning place, used whenever bringing an appointment forward of the agreed time. This gives an example of this being a greater issue than just British vs American English. So the question is not whether you should teach British English or American English. It is to provide the best education as possible regarding English so that the student is best equipped for any variation they come across. Not just English or American, but Australian, Indian or one of the many other variations that exist. While not possible to cover every variation, an acknowledgment to the differences between the British and American languages would at least prepare the student for differences. This can be as simple as highlighting the differences in spelling, to word match games to pair British and American words that refer to the same item. The emphasis not on which is better or which is correct, but purely that these variations exist and build a broader ability in English. Both British and American speakers will know what is meant if you say color or colour, catalog or catalogue. The meaning is clear, even if spell checkers will indicate one or the other spelling to be incorrect. The importance is the meaning is conveyed and understood. So let us not teach one or the other, let us teach them both and any other variations that may come into play in the teaching locale of choice.