Differences between American & British English

GAME OVER   Thursday, February 12, 2004, 10:32 GMT
I am not American, and I am not British. English is not even the first language I spoke. So let's cut through all the crap and get down to it.

If you are going to devote serious time, money and effort to learn a language, learn the most practical one. The one most people around the world will understand.

Look where the rubber hits the road and learn the version of the language that is economically the strongest - around the world. That is American Standard English (ASE).

On the whole, around the globe, it is the form of English most easily understood by other speakers of English, no matter what country they are from. And, regardless of whether they are native speakers or not.

If I was going to study Chinese. I would look where the money is.

If I was going to learn how to talk to bears. I would learn the version that bear business was conducted in.

If aliens came down from space... Get it?

If you want to be cute, different or enjoy a particular culture, by all means learn any dialect you want. In the end, ASE is the way to go.

Yeah, yeah, we are the world, whatever. It's common sense.
Danni   Thursday, February 12, 2004, 13:54 GMT
Hey everyone,

I've been reading through this forum, and I think what everyone has to say is interesting... but, as you tend to do when reading through a long discussion such as this, I have to pick up on a few things...

1. Someone said that there were three nations in Britain. I'm pretty sure all the people in Northern Ireland would disagree with this. If this has already been corrected then never mind me :)

2. Guofei Ma - I've seen that some people have a few problems with you. Well - can I just point out that, as an English girl, there is nothing that British people in general find more annoying than someone who wants to be British by association - our accents are some of the hardest to capture, and if you ever came to Britain, you may well be laughed off the Islands. No one I've ever met on this side of the atlantic says 'by the by'. You don't have to be ashamed of the American accent! Just because it is is not seen to be as 'posh' as the British one, does not mean it is without it's charms.

3. I have the feeling that some Americans - perhaps many - (please correct me if I'm making a sweeping assumption here) think of 'British English' as one of two things... The Queen's English or Dick Van Dyke's English. The Queen's English is not RP - it is affected RP - and leads to such ridiculous inventions as [hiyse] for house. No one in England or the British Isles really speaks like that. They don't speak mockney either. But I have a feeling that Guofei Ma is speaking some strange combination of affected RP and Californian.

4. Erm... I come from the Midlands. No one ever seems to know where that is (including most Brits) - but it's Robin Hood Country, or round abouts. If you've ever been to the Midlands, I'm pretty sure you would be organising parties to celebrate American accents right now. Our Midlands accents (the Birmingham one being the most well-known) are not the most pleasant... although they are useful if you want to make swear words particularly crude and satisfying ;)

5. As for the English of the British Isles being easier to understand... I think I have to disagree. In my experience, we Brits are terrible at articulating *anything* - we hedge our sentences with so many 'thingys' and 'whatsits' and 'you knows' and 'uhs' and 'ers' that we sound like cavemen! Americans (although I have only ever heard academics speaking) seem to have the right word for everything.

Anyways - if I at all came across as rude or annoying etc. then I'm sorry... I'm new and get nervous and so on... you know how it is...

Danni xx
Danni   Thursday, February 12, 2004, 14:06 GMT
Ooh! There was something else I wanted to say as well...

...if you ever come to Britain, you may well be laughed off the Islands...
~ Slight correction :)

Anyway - considering Americans and Britons became separate peoples nearly 600 years ago, it is remarkable how similar the accents and dialects are. America was a mobile nation for a long time, much more than Britain, and therefore the accents have developed more slowly. So Americans are actually speaking much closer to how Shakespeare would have pronounced his words than we are. I don't know why that's important - just seemed interesting - and it destroys the myth that British accents are more prestigious because they are somehow connected to our history, etc.

Danni x
nicolas   Thursday, February 12, 2004, 14:28 GMT
What you say is curious, it means americans are more "conservative" which is logical in fact. Because they are looking about their origins, they want to keep it the best as they can. It's the same if you compre the french and the quebecois, quebecois still speak as Molière did. Because these people came from Europe, i suppose their cultue tend to keep in mind where they are originally from.
Danni   Thursday, February 12, 2004, 14:52 GMT
I don't know... I meant subconsciously :)

Language is at it's most dynamic when people do not move around much... in Britain, in the not too distant past, you could travel to a village twenty miles down the road and have real trouble understanding them. However, mass media and improvements in communication and travel have changed much of this.

Perhaps globalisation will end up with us all speaking with similar accents and dialects? Which would be scary...

Danni x
nicolas   Thursday, February 12, 2004, 15:46 GMT
Do you think it will be like that Danni? I have a scottish friend (glaswigian) who told me when he was at school, a girl came from the north isles. No one was able to understand anything about what she said, she was supposed to speak english.
nicolas   Thursday, February 12, 2004, 15:53 GMT
In fact what you say is funny, because when non english native speakers talk about globalisation, they do not think that kind of problems happen to english speakers. What you say prooves the opposite. Globalisation works to the english native speakers. What do you think about that (germans, french, italians, mexicans, dutch etc, funny isn't it?
jo   Tuesday, February 17, 2004, 16:10 GMT
'I have never come across by the bye. Who says that?'

i do! it is used a fair bit in britain (im english and have lived here all my life (only 17yrs though!))- although it is rather old so its mostly older people who use it! although its actually 'by the by'- not 'by the bye'.

soz- ive never used this forum before- this page just came up whilst im researching my english language coursework- so i have no idea where this message will go once ive posted it or whether it will still be relevant as the post this is in reply to was posted on August 17th!
jo   Tuesday, February 17, 2004, 16:25 GMT
'what does 'pray tell' and 'by the by' mean?'

'pray tell' means pretty much the same as please tell- except its connotations are different- in my experience its usually used by people who are either trying to be funny or condesending, originally it wasnt used like this- but it is quite archaic now.

'by the by' kind of means by the way- its kind of difficult to explain- but its used in a different way- mostly its used by older people- and although i have used it (as i said in my last post), only once or twice- and im always using different expressions like that, if i like them i keep them, if i dont then i dont- this one definately went into the 'dont' pile! :-) and as for the person up there who said theyve never heard anyone say that in britain before- what part of britain are you from? i guess it must be regional differences- im from east sussex (the south east)!
Simon   Tuesday, February 17, 2004, 16:46 GMT
I think American English can be more conservative in relation to historical English but this is more in terms of spelling, grammar etc.

When you think of the US accents that have features found in the English of England, they are all on the East Coast etc. (Boston, New York)

I don't think you can assume that Elizabethan English people sounded more like Americans. Why would accents in England have changed so radically? And why would American accents with so many waves of newcomers whose native tongue was not English resulted in accent conservatism?
Clark USA   Saturday, February 28, 2004, 18:23 GMT
There is hardly a difference US Accents are a mix of Irish who are French Descent, German, French
Americains we are a nation of immigrants who settled here we don't descend here it is not our roots so why everyone kicks a fus about the difference is beyond me

Whites are European descent
Arficians are African descent
Asian are Asian descent

Black people are always refurred to as African Americans so it should be no different for anyone else
byron   Monday, March 01, 2004, 06:30 GMT
Excuse me. Could anyone tell me what's the meaning of "It's bananas up in here?"

Thanks a lot.
mjd   Monday, March 01, 2004, 20:32 GMT
"Bananas" is sometimes used to mean "crazy.".....so "It's crazy up in here."
A.S.C.M.   Tuesday, March 02, 2004, 02:31 GMT
Very, very true, Danni. I say 'whatsit' and 'thingy' all of the time and I befuddle many of my classmates because I don't speak slowly enough or mumble too much or etc. (you get the idea).

Erm...'Americans and Britons became separate peoples nearly 600 years ago'??? Where did you get that fact? Or are you referring to the Native Americans, who have been separated from Britons ever since the last Ice Age?

I'm starting to sound like a muddled Californio-Briton too now, ever since I moved into this inferno of a state a couple of years ago. There is an amazing number of Californio-Britons in my school, all speaking with different odd mixes-and-matches of various accents. There's this particular chappie from Leeds who pronounces words the Yorkshire way but uses American intonation. Then, there's this Indian girl from London who talks 100% RP or 100% Californian depending on her mood. Finally, one fellow in my History class asked me today, 'um...does "labour" have a "u" in it?'
A.S.C.M.   Tuesday, March 02, 2004, 02:41 GMT
Hello Danni,

I found this in the archive: http://www.antimoon.com/temp/guofeima.mp3 . Hehe, Guofei's speech does sound funny. The people in that thread said that he sounded Asian.

The problem with people on both sides of the Atlantic is that the only people they've heard from the other side are academics! Americans say Britons have got the right word for everything. Britons say the same about Americans. Open your ears! People on both sides of the Atlantic sound like cavemen!

I've got a feeling that when most Americans try to imitate a British accent, they now think of 'Harry Potter' rather than 'the Queen'.