American or British English?

The debate continues: American English (US) or British English (UK)?

My colleagues and I have had students – especially international ones – telling us that we should teach the ACCENT of the English language; some say that they want to use U.S. English so that they could further their studies there. Many do not like the British version because they claim that it is so difficult to understand U.K. English.

I would advise students not to have a distinction between learning U.S. English and U.K. English because both are English. It is a fallacy to even have the notion that U.S. English is better than U.K. English or vice versa. In fact, in many instances, I’ve seen and heard people code-switching, trying to impress the foreigner. They want to sound like an American when they meet one, or they want to impress the Brits by speaking the Queen’s English, but on a normal day, they speak English the way they have been speaking to locals.

Let’s look at it this way. If you go to the States and speak Queen’s English, would Americans have difficulty understanding what you’re saying? Similarly, if you go to London and speak American English, would the Britons scratch their heads trying to make sense of your sentences? No, right? So, what’s the fuss about learning the ACCENT or learning US or UK English?

I think it’s all a matter of preference. You learn English either the American way or the English way. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we speak in what I call a “Hybrid Language” where both U.S. and U.K. words are used in our daily conversations, speeches and writings. I don’t see anything wrong with that – who knows, one day, there would be a subject called “Hybrid Language” 😛

Without idolising U.S or U.K. English, my personal preference is the latter. I was brought up in a U.K. English education system though I live nowhere near the British Isles. Nevertheless, I often go hybrid too when I want to convey a message quickly.

The debate stops here, or else we would be talking about Manglish (Malaysian English) and Singlish (Singapore English).

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Posted on July 10, 2009, in Jottings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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