Language lessons across the USA and Canada

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American English – a British take

Following on from my post about the Economist debating whether the English-speaking world should adopt American English, here’s an interesting blog post about some of the differences between American and British English. A sample:

But whenever I open my mouth here, I’m conscious that it’s always a bit of an experiment. People think we speak the same language and they reason I know what I’m saying, but I don’t. The lexical differences are fun, but they’re actually small fry. Learning how to structure my thoughts ’merican-style is the biggest challenge for me.

The different styles of politeness are tricky. Putting it crudely, I come from a culture where politeness is mostly about not getting in anyone’s way, but in the US it’s more about awarding esteem. I have to remember to show approval, warmth and friendliness, and that’s tough for a Brit. If you think about it, the stereotypical Brit is aloof, standoffish and reserved. Our customs dictate we should leave people alone so they can go about their business without us getting in their way. Meanwhile the stereotype of the American is friendly and garrulous – someone who gives you a run-down of their entire life history within five minutes of meeting them. It’s just not polite to hold back, so I’ve had to learn to show more solidarity, share and be open. (Source: Macmillan Dictionary Blog)

I have to agree with the writer here – having spent time in America, and especially in the South, the cultural difference can be hard to adjust to. Whilst it’s nice to meet friendliness wherever you go, it can sometimes leave a Brit wishing for a transaction that doesn’t involve a conversation about where you’re from, what you’re doing there, how wonderful everything is, and ending in “you have a nice day now”.

But then I suppose Americans find the British quite odd and funny too…