Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

Can you use both British and American slang on IELTS Speaking?

Today we answer this extremely common question.

We also share slang that both British and American use.

Native speakers use both!

We’ll explain why this is perfectly acceptable on IELTS.

Today’s question

This question is from 3 Keys student Bharath Vishwanatham.

I grew up in India where we use British English for speaking and writing, but I live in Canada where I use North American English.

I kind of observed myself that I mix both the formats in my speaking as well as writing.

Do you think this will confuse the instructor in the IELTS test and lead to a lower score?

This is an excellent question, and a common one that we have received from students in the past as well.

Structure differences

  • American: You haven’t done that, right?
  • British: Haven’t you done that?

These are both grammatically correct.

These will both sound correct to the Examiner.

Natives hear both accents often through travel, TV, movies, podcasts and music.

Vocabulary differences

There are many words that are specific to a culture or dialect.

Some words do have specific meanings and won’t be understood in other countries.

However, the jargon from other cultures is often adopted into our vernacular.

  • jargon: special words or phrases used by a specific group
  • vernacular: the language or dialect spoken in a particular area

Pronunciation differences

Some words are pronounced very differently in British and American English.

  • aluminum
  • laboratory

Listen to the episode to hear both pronunciations.

They are very different!

You are allowed to use both on IELTS, with the same resulting score.

Will this affect your score?

Nope, it won’t!

You can choose things that Americans or British citizens would say.

There is nothing on the rubric that instructs you to stick to one vernacular.

You can use slang and idioms from any English-speaking country.

The Examiner knows you are not from America or Britain.

Therefore, they won’t expect you to speak only as a citizen of one of those nations.

In fact, pulling in slang from a variety of countries shows a range of Vocabulary.

This range is required for a 7 or higher.

Will this confuse the Examiner?

No, it won’t.

The requirements for IELTS Examiners are very high.

They have to have a master’s degree.

They must have taught English for a minimum of 5 years.

Not only that, but those taking the exam hail from all over the world.

Because of this, Examiners are used to all the different lingo that is used.

  • lingo: the vocabulary of a particular group of people

#1: Rubbish

In British English, rubbish means garbage.

In American English, we use this word to mean “nonsense.”

If we don’t believe what someone says, we might say:

That’s rubbish!

This is a great slang term for Speaking Part 1 or Speaking Part 2.

You could also use it on an informal General training letter.

#2: Knackered

In British English, this means tired.

Americans are starting to adopt this term.

We also will call someone “knackered” to say they are tired.

Americans using this term might be considered haughty.

Maybe they’re trying to show off that they went to London recently!

However, when second language learners use slang from different countries, it’s endearing.

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#3: Fancy

In British English, this is used to mean want or like.

  • Do you want a cup of tea: Fancy a cup of tea?

We use this in America as well.

I’m glad I still fancy my husband after all these years.

I fancy some cookies right now!

This is so useful for Speaking Part 1, where questions often ask you about what you like and dislike.

#4: Cheeky

In Britain, this means silly or irreverent.

The fictional character Mary Poppins used it often!

We now use this in America, in part because it was popularized by Mike Meyers’ comedy.

Check out his SNL sketches from the 1990’s!

This is a great adjective to use on IELTS!

You can describe anyone as cheeky if they’re a bit inappropriate or silly.

#5: Awesome

For a long time, only Americans used this to mean “cool” or “good.”

This pizza is awesome!

My new job is awesome!

In other English-speaking countries, this was only used to mean awe-inspiring or incredible.

More and more, British and Australian speakers also use this word to mean “cool.”

Takeaway

You can use slang and expressions from any English-speaking country on IELTS.

The Examiner will understand and won’t be confused.

In fact, this can actually increase your Vocabulary score.

It provides the range you need!

Practice using slang so you can get a 7 or higher!

For all the strategies you need, get into 3 Keys IELTS!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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