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American English, British English...who cares?

Kiwi3 (61 posts) • 0

It never ceases to amaze me how many language schools still advertise that they specialise in a certain accent or recruit teachers from one native language country but not another, and they have certainly sucked in a lot of local students who are under the false impression that a certain accent is better than another.

It is even worse in Taiwan where everyone wants to learn American English.

For starters, there is no such thing as American English. Can you tell me that a Texan accent and a New York accent are remotely close to being the same thing?

And what happens if you learn American English, do you then ignore or panic every time you meet a South African, Irish or Indian person or whatever?

Personally when learning Chinese I have gone out of my way to get exposure to Beijingers, Shanghainese, Sichuan, Yunnan, heck, even Hong Kongers speaking Mandarin, so that I am comfortable with any accent.

Am I missing something?

Disclaimer - I am not an English teacher and not writing this out of any sort of spite, I just think it is a bizarre and phoney concept.

hedgepig (273 posts) • 0

"there is no such thing as American English."

really? the blank stares i got from a couple of Americans the other day when i used the word 'abseil' say otherwise.

faucet, drapes, suspenders, pants, sidewalk, bill, check, vest, gotten...

Tonyaod (824 posts) • 0

I agree, but I think there are several factors worth considering.

When speaking about American English, British English, etc, I don't believe they are focused on the accent but rather on the mannerisms, vocabulary and with way of speaking.

Whether you are talking to a New Yorker, Texan, or Californian, a cell phone is a cell phone. But when talking to a Brit, it becomes a Mobile. Gas=Petrol, Flashlight becomes torch. And to throw in a Harry Potter reference, what on earth is "snogging"?

Even though, as an American, I can understand British, Indian (somewhat), Scottish, and Irish accents, I wouldn't be able to understand the idioms and or cultural references they are using simply because I wasn't exposed to them in school. When we say "Tom and Jerry" we think of a cartoon. But I believe "Tom" and Jerry" has a different meaning in Briton.

So why the preference? I has to do with where you are expecting to use your new found skill. If you are planning on studying in UK, it would be helpful to learn the slang and idioms used over there, you'd probably want to know what snogging, Tom, and Jerry means.

As to why prefer American English, mostly because the US, for the most part, is the largest and most important trading partner in the region. Another reason is that the US is the largest exporter of culture via Hollywood and its music industry. How many times have you seen an British movie open in China, Taiwan, HK, Japan?

Anyway, just my two cents.

laotou (1714 posts) • 0

Actually there MAY be a difference between British and American English. Now - this is just based on my own experience of being raised in a British English environment and working in American Multinationals. For the record - the Brits don't understand me because they're confused about my accent (and I'm Chinese) - the Americans don't understand me because - well - I have a British vocabulary and sometimes pronounciation of various words - British pronounciation is just more elegant (aka less harsh).

British English has a SIGNIFICANTLY larger vocabulary and students are generally taught how to read English with expression (interjecting emotion). Comparing dictionary sizes is NOT an appropriate test as that does NOT indicate SPOKEN or COLLOQUIAL English usage. Proper British English uses elements of wit and sarcasm at higher language levels.

American English generally is contained to a smaller colloquial vocabulary of frequently used words and phrases and tends to be more direct or blunt.

A good way to see this illustrated is to observe a cross-section of British versus American comedians. It's for THIS reason that American English is both easier to teach and tends to be preferred to acquire rapid English proficiency. Mastering the inuendos of English then requires students proceed into British English - with all of its richness and eccentricities.

JJ and Janice (324 posts) • 0

Yes - - there is American English. Check with Rosetta Stone language lessons - - you have a choice to purchase American English or British English.

As to preference - - it all tends towards commercialism. It seems to be a given in international business that American English is used more than any other. Using that over-used word "pragmatic" - - the Chinese will opt for the one most commercially viable.

And - - Yes - - culture has a lot more to do with the differences than does an accent (except, maybe, for India).

All in all - - folks will opt for what they think best for them personally.

Note: although American, I have been exposed to many "types" of English from playing rugby in New Zealand, Australia, England, Canada (interesting those speaking English with French accent) - - and working with SAS (and SBS) in England, Australia and NZ.

Again - - just my two cents (now where does that come from!!)

Cheers - - JJ

JJ and Janice (324 posts) • 0

As to "my two cents" - - from Wikipedia re: American and British idioms (ie., English):

"..."My two cents" and its longer version "put my two cents in" is an American idiomatic expression, taken from the original British idiom expression: to put in "my two pennies worth" or "my tuppence worth." It used to preface the tentative stating of one's opinion. By deprecating the opinion to follow — suggesting its value is only two cents, a very small amount — the user of the phrase hopes to lessen the impact of a possibly contentious statement, showing politeness and humility. However, it is also sometimes used with irony when expressing a strongly felt opinion. The phrase is also used out of habit to preface uncontentious opinions."

jimsc (9 posts) • 0

Laotou, what the hell are you talking about?

There "MAY be a difference between British and American English"? Are you trying to be comically pompous? There are a thousand and one differences between British and American English. Several, ranging from vocabulary to pronunciation to grammar, have been pointed out in this thread.

Is elegance in pronunciation (whatever the hell that is) the same thing as the lack of "harshness" (whatever the hell that is)? Or do you just really like Received Pronunciation because you associate it with very polite men in bowler hats, and you associate American pronunciation with Britney Spears and George W. Bush?

And you think American English is more popular in China because American comedy is simpler? Do you really believe that is a relevant criterion to students, teachers, and school administrators? Do you think any of those people care that Ricky Gervais is a million times funnier than Steve Carell?

Laotou, get your inflated head out of your butt. (AKA your bottom, as I've heard it is called in jolly old England.)

laotou (1714 posts) • 0

Oh dear - seems I've stepped on someone's toes - exactly the opposite of the intent. I thought I'd become wiser with age and experience - but perhaps not. As kindly demonstrated, American colloquial English also makes extensive use of select expletives as adjectives to emphasize the speaker's emotions - although that may not be acceptable by the newly formed(?) Kunming Toastmasters - which I highly recommend to anyone wishing to improve their public speaking or language abilities. The Toastmasters (never been to Kunming's) is a friendly constructive environment and...it's FREE! The entertainment industry is yet another version of dialectic and colloquial English and it's subtleties. I met a young Chinese student who wants to work in entertainment industry and listens extensively to RAP to pick up on the lingo and body language.

I responded with my PERSONAL experience having lived on both sides of the fence in several non-English speaking countries with a plethora of colorful and diverse expats speaking an equally colorful variety of English dialects. I was trying to be polite and intentionally vague so as avoid direct offense or incite incendiary emotions - but that seems to have the precise reverse effect to some - showing yet again the diversity and difficulties of the English language regardless of dialect. As for British vs American English - my former staff - when faced with an extremely offensive racist comment form an American manager who should have known better, in regards to his pronounciation commented that "if you want to speak English like MOST people in the world - then one should learn to speak the INDIAN dialect of English - as there are more people in India who speak English than anywhere else in the world.

As for comedy or humor - it is a higher form of English language study/comprehension, regardless or American or British (or Indian) as the humor requires exposure and understanding to the local culture and colloquialisms. Delivering or receiving a joke or humorous story can be quite difficult for non-native speakers - whether written or oral.

As for criterion - most college grads in China have memorized English in its various flavors for over 10 years - few are conversant, so if criterion is irrelevant - well that makes dialect even more moot.

...and back on point to Kiwi3 - most students study the various flavors because they want to work, live, or study (date?) in that respective country (or work for a multinational from that country). It's a bit naive on the students' parts - but the schools cater to the expressed desires of the market.

With that said - I'll go stick my inflated head back into my butt as penance for what I've helped America become both today and 15 years from now - but it will be challenging with my foot in my mouth. I'll try to reflect on the rigeurs of comic and pomposity and the use of elegant as a contrast to harsh...and I'll have to severely brush up on American pop culture as I clearly don't understand the eclectic virtues of Britney Spears. Ricky Gervais - definitely need to investigate...the world is far to serious with itself...but can he compare to the longevity and cult-like following of Python?

And - I've never been to jolly old England...Paris is tops on my list right after I bounce through Tokyo, Sydney, and another place I'd love to visit - NZ.

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