What do Brits think of American English?

Chris   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 08:58 GMT
I have always wondered what British English speakers think of American English. I have always gotten the impression that the situation with American English is like that with Castillian Spanish and Mexican Spanish and Iberian and Brazilian Portuguese. They are all offshoots of an original "pure" mother tongue and generally considered inferior.

I know that to most Americans, British accents (and every variation that idea entails) sound like the hallmark of a very educated individual. They are a very unique sound in a country like this where only a few areas have distinct accents (The south, Eastern seaboard and Midwest regions) that aren't related to an accent passed down from an ethnic group.

I have often heard that some British people feel like Americans have "murdered" the English language, and that sentiment seems fairly understandable to me, as I feel American English to be one of the flattest, unemotional languages around in terms of diction and overall vocal delivery.

So to the British people on this board. Be brutally (but not mean-spiritedly) honest. What does a typical American accent sound like to you. I'm not speaking in terms of what you hear on TV or in movies, but actual Americans you have met and/or spoken to at length. Do they strike you as idiots or of lower social status?

I only ask this because it seems to me like the Iberian Portuguese-Brazilian Portuguese/Castillian Spanish-Mexican Spanish/British English-American English thing has always been an issue of the European side feeling the Western hemisphere's manifestation of their language is inferior.
Stephen   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 09:46 GMT
The accent itself isn't the problem with American English, it's the mispronunciation of words, e.g

Aluminium n: Al-you-min-e-um (English) Ah-loo-min-uhm (American)

and the respelling of words that get under the British skin.

Colour vs color
Theatre vs theater
Plough vs plow
Centre vs center
Analyse vs analyze
Courtesy of BBC NEWS   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 10:04 GMT
Fight to save English spelling

A campaign is being launched to protect English words from being replaced by American spellings.

Colchester MP Bob Russell wants to prevent youngsters from being shown words such as "utilize", "color" and "traveling".

He wants to force computer companies to install spellchecking software which offers English instead of American definitions.

Mr Russell said: "I also want the government to lead by example so all our schoolchildren, and the public generally, use the English spelling and not the American spelling."

Many operating systems, such as Microsoft's Windows, already allow users to select the language they use on the computer.

But often popular web sites utilise American English.

The primary school at Eight Ash Green in Essex, in Mr Russell's constituency, is sticking up for traditional British English.

Headteacher Nick Rudman told BBC Look East that when pupils there leave the "u" out of the word labour, they are soon put right.

Chris   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 10:17 GMT
See...I actually prefer the British spellings. When writing assignments for my University in Microsoft Word for Windows, I notice that any British spellings are automatically considered wrong be the spell check function.

I also have occasionally used "colour" "favour" "defence" in essays or assignments and get them marked as wrong by my professors. I suppose that one just has to accept the idiosyncrasies of the language in your country.

And I do agree that popular web sites to often utilize American English. Just like my argument about European vs Brazilian Portuguese. The majority of web sites in Portuguese are written in Brazilian Portuguese which I understand mingled with Indian and African languages and also had no written representation until the Iberians were out of Brazil after slavery was abolished. Essentially Brazilian Portuguese was a spoken dialect for centuries.

It makes me wonder how "early Americans" sounded back when the Declaration of Independence was drafted. It probably took a few generations before Americans had their own way of pronouncing and spelling things, I'm sure that by the time the Civil War rolled around, the good ole' boys were in full force.

I think the main British/American difference is that Americans tend to use a lot of shortcuts, contractions, slang and in general do not make proper language usage a high prority. It is fairly rare that you see Americans trying to imply social class through accent in America unless you're pitting non-native speakers with accents against native speakers.
Boy   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 15:44 GMT
Chris...American English has no hard and fast rules, that's what I like about.
As a zero beginner, I will not have to be suffered under grammar rule drugs.
Like in British English, you've to use "Shall" with subject pronouns such as "I" and "We". You do not have to pronounce "r" in each word. In a nutshell, Americans are trying to make the language much easier to learn.

My country works under British system. It was ruled by British sometime in the past. You see, the upcoming generation is much much interested in learning American English. It uses alot of shortcuts, contractions, slang and I mean, it looks like a rainbow not like plain-boring stuff.

I'll further go on accepting 'shortcuts and contractions' in formal writings.
A.S.C.M.   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 17:19 GMT
I'm a Briton living in the United States. I don't think the American accent sounds flat or idiotic. Yet, I do think that it makes Americans sound a little over-relaxed and tired.
Clark   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 17:33 GMT
Saving English spelling...I think we should just make French or Spanish the written language for all English-speaking nations and English-speakers so there would be no arguments about English Spelling Reform.
A.S.C.M.   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 17:46 GMT
I think students should learn both American and British spelling and should be granted the freedom of choosing whichever standardised spelling system they want to use.

American and British teachers shouldn't mark students down for using the spelling system of the other nation. There should only be two requirements for spelling: consistency and validity.

Consistency: If an American student decides to use British spelling and writes "manoeuvre" in the first sentence, he shouldn't write "analyze" in the second sentence. If a British student decides to use American spelling and writes "maneuver" in the first sentence, he shouldn't write "analyse" in the second sentence.

Validity: If an American student decides to use British spelling, he shouldn't spell a certain noun as "practise" because "practice" is the correct spelling of the noun in both the US and the UK.
English-American   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 18:51 GMT
Dual-Systems: When a person brought up in America with English family, sometimes it is hard to keep the systems organised in one's head. And then when one types, it is easier to use the "s" in words like "analyse" whereas when one handwrites, it is easier to use the "z" in words like "analyze."

This is brought to you by an English-American.
A.S.C.M.   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 19:07 GMT
My solution: Memomrisation and practice. Sometimes, it would also be useful to create charts. One need to spend some time on organising and memorising the differences. I spent a total of approximately 10 hours during the summer holidays researching on the web, flipping through dictionaries, creating charts, and memorising the charts in order to draw a solid line between British and American English in my head so as to avoid confusing the two. Ever since, I have been 100% consistent in my usage of British English in most situations and American English in English class. Memorisation is the way I learn everything and so far, it has worked very well for me.

I write cursive so it's easier for me to use the "s" in words like "analyse" when I'm writing.

This is brought to you by a Briton in America.
Eastie   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 19:08 GMT
>>The accent itself isn't the problem with American English, it's the mispronunciation of words, e.g

Aluminium n: Al-you-min-e-um (English) Ah-loo-min-uhm (American)<<

We spell it "aluminum" -- which corresponds to our pronunciation of the word.
A.S.C.M.   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 19:10 GMT
Sorry. The first sentence in my above post was supposed to read "My solution: MEMORISATION and practice."
Eastie   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 19:26 GMT
Chris, if you're an American and you write "colour", "favour", and "defence" on an essay for no apparent reason other than style, of course your professors are going to mark them wrong. These spellings are incorrect by American standards and your professors are going to think that a) you can't spell, or b) you're being haughty and pretentious (never a good idea with college professors). Now, if you were a British or Commonwealth native and your professors were aware of this, then they should have no problems with your spellings.
Hythloday   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 19:37 GMT
A lot of conservative-minded English people certainly do think that American English is corrupting British English, but many (mostly younger and cleverer) British people realise quite rightly that American English is now more important and is at the vanguard of linguistic change.

I don't know about Americans thinking that British English is pure, by the way. I'm British and the last time I was in New York I had to ask a bartender for four beers about six or seven times. When he finally understood, he said: "Well, why don't you speak English properly?"
Clark   Tuesday, November 11, 2003, 21:42 GMT
There was a line in some British movie where an American says rather l9udly on a London street, "didn't you people spawn this language? Then why the hell can't you people speak it properly?!?"

The British are proud of their language. Just last night a cousin of mine staying with my g-parents told my 5 year old American cousin, "you can come back to England with me and learn English." Now it does not take a genious to realise that both Americas' and Englands' language are the same' there are just different accents. This just goes to show that some people do not think that American English is "proper." Ilove my cousin to death, but she is the same person who told me that she loves to listen to American accents! Go figure.