UK vs. US English usage in Asia, my preferences, questions, etc.

Nguyen, Adam   Thursday, February 26, 2004, 03:02 GMT
I've noticed a few things that stand out among English usage in Asia:

British English is preferred in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Viet Nam, India, Pakistan, Russia, Mongolia, Thailand, Laos, and some other places that I can't think of right now.

American English is preferred in Japan, Taiwan, and I think both Koreas.

Anyone know why is this? I always thought British English was more international and I would expect everyone outside the US to be using it instead of American English, but it looks like I was wrong. I spot LOTS of Web sites based in Japan and Taiwan written in US English.

Being from the US, I've been using US English up to about 2001, when I became interested in writing in a way that the most people from around the world would be able to understand me. So, I decided then to change to gradually using more and more British English spellings, words, and even developed an accent (I think it's Received Pronunciation) that I've received positive comments about over here. I now believe that British spellings should always be used instead of American spellings because it's closer to the original form of English. It may be true that some American spellings reflect the pronunciation of the words but, there are so many more words that only have one spelling that sound the same as other words (homophones; like 'they're', 'their', and 'there'). If my grammar or punctuation is incorrect, please politely let me know, as I'm not often told where I'm wrong because most of my readers are casual readers who don't analyse things.

About the accent, I believe that my newly (as of around 2002) developed accent, when hearing it spoken by others, sounds more professional, classy, and 'correct', then my plain, 'dead', advert-sounding Middle-Atlantic American ('water' is pronounced like 'wouder', with the 'ou' like in 'would' and the 'd' soundinlike a cross between 'j', 't', and 'd') accent. For your information, in case you don't know, I've heard of about 4 (New England, Middle Atlantic, Southern, and Michigan area) accents being used in the US. These aren't to be confused with dialects, which are actually different word usages and other changes beyond just a minor pronunciation switch, like 'truck' used in the US & Canada, and 'lorry' used everywhere else.

One question I have: I've heard that an American using a British accent, no matter how good, is frowned upon in the UK or by people who were raised with that accent. Is this true or is it only true if the person using the accent is just mocking or is being thought of as mocking it? I can't say because people over here in the US just assume that I come from somewhere else by my very dense accent usage in public and are puzzled when I tell them that I was born, raised, and always and lived in my home city in Pennsylvania. I never use this accent in conversation with family or anyone who's known me for a long time because it's obvious that they will question me about 'not speaking normally'. It probably will be embarassing if a family member or old friend runs into me with a co-worker or vice-versa and I'm speaking very 'differently', though. Has anyone ever run into such situations?

Simon   Thursday, February 26, 2004, 07:50 GMT
Re frowning: I don't know. Maybe using local speech traits/vocabulary without natural acquisition or understanding of their usage would grate but the more you sound like a native the less you are going to sound like a foreigner. But between accents, I think you could end up sounding strange to both accent groups.
Monnio   Thursday, February 26, 2004, 12:48 GMT
It is the avalanche of American movies, commercials and TV programmes that makes people in other countries pick up that accent, I'd say.
Elaine   Thursday, February 26, 2004, 17:56 GMT
Nguyen, Adam:
Most of the countries you mentioned as preferring British English were former British colonies/territories (Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Pakistan). So the British influence should be fairly obvious.

British English is probably preferred over American English in countries like Russia, Vietnam, Mongolia, Laos due to past Cold War tensions between those countries and the US. Also, Vietnam and Indonesia were former colonies of France (Indochina), and as I understand it, when the French learn English they learn the British variety.

Countries like Japan, Taiwan, S. Korea, and the Philippines have strong historic and economic ties to the US, thus, their preference for American English.

Regarding your comment:
"I now believe that British spellings should always be used instead of American spellings because it's closer to the original form of English."

What is the "original form of English"? If we go back to Old English (and even Middle English), neither BrE nor AmE resemble anything like it, so how can one say that BrE spelling is more closer to the original form? In my opinion, both Englishes carry equal weight in their respective regions, both Englishes evolved from their respective histories, and both spellings are correct in their respective regions.
David Winters   Thursday, February 26, 2004, 21:56 GMT
Wow. Someone has self-esteem issues.

You're American. Learn to live with it.
Simon   Friday, February 27, 2004, 09:50 GMT
Yes but America often does something new and then claims the others are wrong. Plus, while there is still an England, and while English in whatever form continues to strongly resemble the language as it grew up in that country, I will continue to get tired of Americans sticking a stupid "British" in front of English for the language I speak. Face it, the language Americans speak has European roots in the country England. You like your Italian, Irish, Spanish, Polish, Dutch, German, Swedish, etc. roots. Get over it; America has English roots.

I saw an article the other day that blamed England for America's historical racism. Thanks a bunch. Care to back that up?
Joseph (S.Korean)   Friday, March 05, 2004, 07:02 GMT

In Korea, we prefer to use American-style English because most of people think that the USA is going to be, or it is, the greatest country.

I think it might cause some problems but... well...

By the way, I want to say that Koreans speak way good English compared to Japan or Taiwan.

For example, Japaneses prounce McDonalds "Mae Goo Dho Nah Rhu Do"
and Koreans prounce it "Mac Doh Nald".

dian   Friday, March 05, 2004, 07:24 GMT
I am from Indonesia.

I think we are more familiar with American English. We are surrounded by American movies and products. In the television, we watch American movies very often, I think 90% of movies here are from US. I have watched movies such as Bart Simpson, Growing Pains, Friends, America's Funniest Home Video (it is not a movie :-)), Who's the Boss, Dallas, The "A" Team, etc.

In the theatre, the comparison is higher, I think 99% of the movies here are Hollywod movies. Even Indonesian movies cannot compete with Hollywood movies, unless in the last 2 years. In terms of there're a growing number of people who watch Indonesian movies, not in terms of productivity.
Jim   Friday, March 05, 2004, 08:13 GMT
No, Joseph, the Japanese butchery of "Mac Donalds" goes more like "Makudonaludo" (I've used "lu" instead of "ru" but to be fair the distinction is not made in Corean either).
mjd   Friday, March 05, 2004, 08:42 GMT
"I saw an article the other day that blamed England for America's historical racism. Thanks a bunch. Care to back that up?"

Well, I wouldn't say it was England who is to "blame," but slavery during the colonial era in the modern day U.S.A. had a lot to do with the British. The colonial U.S. was run by the British; that goes for its slave plantations as well. It was Great Britain that was profiting from the colonies (that goes for the Caribbean as well). Slavery was abolished in England in 1807, only 58 years before it was abolished in the U.S. (although "Jim Crow" would last another 100 years).
Jarec   Friday, March 05, 2004, 09:18 GMT
Mjd, but since when a black and a white man could drink water from the same tap?
It's a shame.
Simon   Friday, March 05, 2004, 10:34 GMT
But I worry there is a tendency to think slavery was the English cultural contribution. The world was a nasty place then and slavery has been practiced by many cultures. GB then, where it really does have something in common with the US, was interested primarily in making money. But beyond that there was no slave culture as such in the UK. You never had slaves on British soil. So, black people in the UK have never had (direct) slave roots and most have come from the Carribean, although I understand that more recent waves are Africans. Mainland British people don't have a culture of slave masters. I know no one living in the US does but I think there is a difference.
Simon   Friday, March 05, 2004, 10:36 GMT
And even though slavery is racist, I don't think slavery is entirely responible for US racism.
mjd   Friday, March 05, 2004, 11:48 GMT
Jarec said: "Mjd, but since when a black and a white man could drink water from the same tap? It's a shame."

You're alluding to the Jim Crow laws. While racism is a nation-wide phenomenon, these laws primarily existed in the South. There were no "white" and "colored" bathrooms in the North.
Paul   Monday, March 08, 2004, 17:28 GMT
Use of both the American and British Varieties of English is spreading. People get around. I see it places like Montreal, Canada, Israel, India, South Africa and the Netherlands. People develop an intermediate accent and empathise and accentuate their words for more clarity. I don't know Britain, but in Canada and U.S.A. there is no prejudice against an moderately British accent, clearly and consistently spoken.
Regards, Paul V.