English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and learning it can open up many opportunities for individuals and societies. However, when it comes to learning English, learners are often faced with a choice between two major dialects: British English and American English. Both dialects are widely spoken and understood, but there are advantages to learning either one. In this post, we’ll explore the advantages of learning either British English or American English and provide some tips and resources for learners who want to improve their English skills.
Historical differences between British and American English
English is the lingua franca of the modern world, and it’s used as a language of communication and commerce in many countries. By learning English, individuals can expand their horizons, connect with people from different cultures, and access a wealth of knowledge and opportunities. Whether you’re learning British English or American English, you’re learning a language that has global significance and relevance.
One of the main reasons why British English and American English have developed differently is due to the historical and cultural differences between the two nations. The colonization of North America by the British in the 17th century brought the English language to the continent, but the settlers who came to America spoke different dialects and had different pronunciations, spellings, and vocabulary. This led to the development of regional dialects and variations in the English language.
In the early days of the colonies, there was no standardized spelling for English words, and the spelling of words was largely influenced by individual preferences and regional dialects. As a result, American English began to develop its own spellings that differed from British English. When Noah Webster published his American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828, he sought to create a standard for American English spelling that would differentiate it from British English. Webster advocated for simplified spellings and dropped the use of the letter “u” in words like “colour” and “favour,” which became “color” and “favor” in American English.
Vocabulary differences also developed as a result of the historical and cultural differences between the two nations. The development of these differences was influenced by factors such as immigration, social class, and economic conditions. For example, in British English, “lorry” is used to refer to a truck, while in American English, “truck” is used. Similarly, in British English, “chips” are a type of thinly sliced potato that is fried, while in American English, “chips” refer to what the British would call “French fries.”
Pronunciation and grammar have also developed differently in British and American English due to the influence of different regional accents and dialects within each variant of English. These differences in pronunciation and grammar can be traced back to the development of different regional accents and dialects within each variant of English.
To learn more about how the English language has developed, go to our blogpost on the history and evolution of the English language.
Similarities and differences between British and American English
British English and American English are two major dialects of English, and while they share many similarities, there are also some notable differences between them. For example, British English tends to be more standardized and formal, while American English is often more informal and practical. British English also has a rich cultural heritage, with literature, theatre, and film that are associated with the dialect. On the other hand, American English dominates in popular culture and media, and has a significant influence on global business and technology. When learning English, it’s important to be aware of these similarities and differences, and to choose the dialect that best suits your goals and needs. Overall, we can divide the differences into 5 lingual categories: spelling, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and idiomatic expressions. Below we will go through the primary differences in each category to help you gain a better understanding of which language is right for you. To learn more about the similarities and differences, check out our blogpost about understanding the difference between British and American English.
British English and American English differ significantly in their spelling. These differences can be traced back to the early days of colonization of North America by the British. Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1828, was the first attempt to standardize American English spelling, which he intended to differentiate from British English. There are several differences in spelling between the two variants of English. For example, “colour” is spelled “color” in American English, while “centre” is spelled “center.” Similarly, “theatre” is “theater,” “realise” is “realize,” “programme” is “program,” and “analyse” is “analyze.”
The difference in vocabulary is another major distinction between British and American English. There are many words that are commonly used in one variant of English that are not used in the other. For example, in British English, “lorry” is used to refer to a truck, while in American English, “truck” is used. Similarly, “chips” are thinly sliced potatoes that are fried in British English, while “chips” refer to “French fries” in American English. Other examples of vocabulary differences include “lift” and “elevator,” “flat” and “apartment,” “biscuit” and “cookie,” and “petrol” and “gasoline.”. Read more about strengthening your English vocabulary in this blogpost on building strong vocabulary.
There are differences in grammar between British and American English. One of the most noticeable differences is the use of collective nouns. In British English, collective nouns are treated as singular, while in American English, they are treated as plural. For example, in British English, “the team is playing well,” while in American English, “the team are playing well.” There are also differences in the use of prepositions, verb tense, and word order, among others. Want to dive deeper into English grammar? You can learn more in this blogpost about common grammar mistakes and how to avoid them.
Pronunciation is another area where there are differences between British and American English. The most noticeable difference is in the way vowels are pronounced. For example, in British English, the vowel sound in “bath” is pronounced with a short “a,” while in American English, it is pronounced with a long “a.” Similarly, the vowel sound in “dance” is pronounced with a short “a” in British English, while it is pronounced with a long “a” in American English. There are also differences in the way consonants are pronounced, with some consonants being pronounced differently in each variant of English.
Idiomatic expressions are phrases that are used to convey a particular meaning that may not be apparent from the literal interpretation of the words used. There are many idiomatic expressions that are used in British English that may not be used in American English, and vice versa. For example, in British English, “the bee’s knees” is an expression used to describe something that is excellent, while in American English, “the cat’s meow” is used to convey the same meaning. Similarly, in British English, “cheeky” is used to describe someone who is impudent or disrespectful, while in American English, “fresh” is used in a similar context.
Advantages of learning British English
If you’re interested in learning British English, there are several advantages to consider. For one, British English is the most widely spoken language in the world, with over 1.5 billion speakers. This is due to the historical influence of the British Empire and the Commonwealth countries, which have spread the dialect across the globe. Additionally, British English is more standardized than American English, with the Oxford English Dictionary and the Cambridge English Corpus providing clear and authoritative definitions and examples of British English usage. British English is also often considered more prestigious than American English, particularly in academic and professional settings. Finally, British English places a greater emphasis on pronunciation and accent, with a wide range of regional accents and dialects. Learning British English can help learners develop a more accurate and nuanced understanding of English pronunciation.
Advantages of learning American English
If you’re interested in learning American English, there are also several advantages to consider. For one, American English dominates in popular culture and media, with Hollywood movies, American TV shows, and American music influencing people all over the world. Additionally, American English has a significant influence on global business and technology, with many international companies using American English as their lingua franca. American English is also known for its simplicity and practicality, with a focus on clear and concise communication. Finally, American English is often more informal and casual than British English, which can be advantageous in social situations.
Which one to choose?
Choosing between British English and American English can be a difficult decision, and it ultimately depends on your personal goals, interests, and needs. If you’re interested in academic or professional contexts (see our blogposts on improving your business English and overcoming language barriers), or if you’re interested in British literature, theatre, or film, then British English might be the best choice for you. If you’re interested in popular culture, media, or technology, or if you want to focus on practical communication skills, travelling or studying abroad (learn more in this blogpost on studying English abroad), then American English might be the best choice for you. Ultimately, the choice is up to you, and there’s no right or wrong answer.
Resources for learning English
Regardless of which dialect of English you choose to learn, there are many resources available to help you improve your skills. Here are a few examples:
- Language learning apps: Apps like Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone offer interactive lessons and activities that can help you improve your vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. Many of these apps also allow you to choose between British English and American English, so you can tailor your learning to your chosen dialect.
- Online courses: There are many online courses available that can help you improve your English skills, including courses offered by universities and language schools. Websites like Coursera and edX offer free or low-cost courses in a wide range of topics, including English language learning.
- Podcasts: Podcasts like “The English We Speak” from the BBC and “All Ears English” from the United States offer engaging and informative content that can help you improve your listening and comprehension skills. Many of these podcasts also cover regional differences between British English and American English.
- Books: Reading books in English can help you improve your vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension skills. Choose books that are written in the dialect you want to learn and start with something that’s appropriate for your level of proficiency.
Finding a tutor or language class
If you’re struggling to improve your language skills on your own, you can consider getting help from a tutor or enrolling yourself in an English class. A tutor can provide one-on-one support and help you identify your specific areas of weakness. To find a language school near you, simply search for instance “language school London” or “English class Manchester”. If you’re not able to find a local language school near you, you still have a chance to get assistance with you learning as well as a social network by finding a local tutor – you’ll still get educational support in your English language learning, and the tutor might introduce you to other people in your area. Find a local tutor by searching for instance “English tutor Leeds” or “English teacher Liverpool”. To read more about the benefits of finding a good tutor, you can check out our blogpost on the benefits of one-on-one tutoring.
In conclusion, whether you choose to learn British English or American English, there are many advantages to learning either dialect. By understanding the similarities and differences between these dialects, and by choosing resources and materials that are appropriate for your goals and needs, you can improve your English skills and expand your horizons. To help you get a good and strong foundation to your English language learning, find a tutor who can support you through your learning and help you set goals and make progress. Why not start today? Happy learning!