AEE 992: How to Decide When to Use British or American English

learn British or learn American English how to decide

 Do you have any good friends who are British?

Do you ever notice a difference between British and American English?

Do you ever feel unsure as to which one to use?

Though the differences may seem minor, they definitely exist.

We’re going to look at the differences between British English and American English so that you understand each one.

 

Here’s a question from a listener:

 

Hi Lindsay, Michelle, and Jessica,

I can’t believe I finally get to write an email to you guys! I’ve been listening to your podcasts and really enjoying it. This podcast is the best  ever! 😀 Thank you for your enthusiastic and energetic podcast.

By the way, I’m writing this email to ask one thing I am really confused about these days.

I’ve been learning English through your podcasts, transcripts, and another online course/materials and these are all about American English.

As I’ve studied  these things, I think I’m pretty comfortable with speaking American English and my pronunciation definitely sounds like American English.

But the problem is when it comes to writing texts or email, I keep feeling confused about the word I choose between British and American English. Examples include such as mum vs mom, lift vs elevator, flavour vs flavor just to name a few. 

Because the person I talk to most of time uses British English and I didn’t want to seem wrong.

And the funniest thing is sometimes when I talk with a person who uses American English, then I start to use American English.

I feel like I keep losing my self-identity about this!!

Could you give me an answer  in how to deal with this?

Thanks and lol (lots of love haha)

Jihee from South Korea

 

Don’t Let This Frustrate You

This is a great question and it’s great that the letter mentions identity here.

Noticing the differences in words or even accents shows that you are thinking at a high level, which is great.

Though you may feel unsure if it’s British English or American English, you will learn to tune into certain things.

You don’t want this to make you question your identity, simply learn to be more in tune to this.

This will come in time and help you to decipher what you are dealing with.

 

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How Can You Be Sure?

If in doubt, you can ask yourself some pivotal questions.

To answer the first part of the question about spelling, it’s important to think of a three step set of questions to ask yourself in trying to identify which version it is. 

 

#1) Who is the audience?

Is it a friend or a family member? Are you dealing with a co-worker or professor?

If the person is closer to you, you don’t have to worry about changing to British. That person will understand you are mostly learning American English and see the differences as endearing. Nobody will expect you to change to the other way of spelling or speaking either. 

A coworker may be different. It depends what other people in the company or the school do. If one way is the common way used by everyone, you may want to switch over in this environment. 

 

#2) What is the purpose of the writing conversation?

Stop to think about who you are talking to and what you are trying to convey.

There’s a reason for this conversation, and this is instrumental as to how you approach it.

  • Is it informal text messaging or emailing? Go with the same rule as in number 1 and think of the audience.
  • Is it for a presentation at work where most people are British? Or for a school assignment for a British teacher ? Consider switching to British spelling and words to make it more formal.
  • Will the audience understand and accept differences if they exist?

 

#3) Will the person get confused by the meaning?

Most of the time, people know the differences between spelling, like our or are. If it’s a spelling that for some reason seems very different and could confuse someone, you may want to change it to match your audience’s spelling or vocabulary.

A few examples of this could be: zee/zed (this is kind of a big difference) chips/crisps(you could get the wrong order!) , football/soccer (say American football)

Take all of these things into consideration and you can work through which version applies in that particular conversation.

 

Takeaway

Don’t let this be an identity crisis!

If someone gets confused, they can always ask.

It’s nice to think about these things, but unless it’s for professional or educational purposes, there’s no need to worry about it.

Go with what you know and try to stick with the one that you feel comfortable with.

If anything, people find it endearing to talk about and hear the differences.

There’s no right or wrong, just go with the version that you’ve learned.

This is how you can share good conversation and make great connections!

 

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can. 

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