Spelling and Pronunciation
Some primary format differences in spelling (with the same pronunciation):
British: Colour, centre, defence, realise, travelling.
American: Color, center, defense, realize, traveling.
Some differences in spelling and pronunciation:
British: Maths, Aluminium.
American: Math, Aluminum.
Some differences in pronunciation and stress only:
- Controversy, leisure, schedule, dynasty, dance, advertisement, vitamin.
There is also the occasional difference in word meaning, the grammatical structure of sentences, and the words used. However, regardless of how unusual a British person may find the way an American person expresses their thoughts, both styles abide by the same fundamental principles. It is similar for pronunciation; there are universal rules that lie at the baseline with the International Phonetic Alphabet, but beyond that thousands of dialects take their own path.
Queue, boot, bonnet, lorry, petrol, bank holiday, barrister, car park; these are just some of the words associated with British english
that are not a part of the American vocabulary. This is not to say there are not alternatives, because in almost all cases there are. In American english
, a ‘queue' is more commonly referred to as a ‘line', a ‘boot' a ‘trunk', ‘petrol' as ‘gas', and a ‘car park' as a ‘parking lot'.
Neither the British nor the American versions are incorrect. Both are a result of history and culture, but neither stands tall above the other. Much like when a non-english
speaking person visits an english
speaking country, an American may visit the UK and not understand certain words or expressions spoken by the locals, but will still understand the majority because there are far more similarities than there are differences.
The list of alternative words and structures is long and not all teacher
s of the english
language will know them off by heart. If a teacher
started a course teaching both forms, then as new vocabulary and grammar is introduced, they should make a point of teaching both versions if the situation requires it.
Which Should I Teach?
The way we speak, the words we use, and the grammatical structure of our sentences are not only influenced by what we are taught in school, but by the books we read, the movies and TV shows we watch, our geographic and political location, and the people we meet. For example, New Zealand english
is an amalgamation of influences from england
, Scotland, ireland
, the united states
, and Maori culture. Even within New Zealand there are regional and socio-economic dialects that differ in accent, word use, pronunciation, stress, and intonation.
Certain forms of the english
language are more popular in certain pockets of the world. In Latin America the language of choice is American english
. This can be explained by its geographic proximity, as well as migratory and cultural connections. While it is in no way impossible, if a teacher
from Britain was to run an english
language course for mid-to-upper level students in Latin America, the teacher
's accent and use of foreign words and structures may confuse the students. Not because they do not know the english
language at all, but because the english
they have been exposed to and taught at an early age was grounded in American english
To put it simply, there is no correct or right form to teach, as long as it entails the correct principles of the english
language as a whole. No dialect is perfect and no dialect is greater than another. It all depends of where the teacher
is from, their knowledge of a form, and the cultural surroundings and nationalities of their students. Thankfully there are no major grammatical differences between British english
and American english
that make their overlapping influences counterproductive, and if necessary, both can be taught at the same time if the arrangement is made clear to the students.
Some examples taken from: http://esl
[I hope it is okay that I did not go far beyond the units for information. I found that after writing what I know from old research and experience living in both the UK and the united states
, I did not have the room for additional information and instead found myself having to cut down the word count.]