Fans of British English!

Evvy   Sat Sep 02, 2006 11:22 am GMT
I like British English very much.
However, a thing that bothers me: Many people in Asia and increasingly in Europe now consider American English the international norm. I've recently read that especially in Japan and Isreal, British English is very rare. It is not taught at schools and pupils therefore think of American English as the "real" English. Some people even think that English originated in the US!
And in Europe, I've heard the following: "The United States has a larger population, is more influential (science, Hollywood, etc..), so let's use American English."

This thread is not anti-American, please don't get me wrong! I'd just like to ask you (as a non-native speaker): What is special about British English? Why do you like British English? And what could be said about British English in order to promote it and encourage people to learn it?

I know that there are many good reasons to learn American English, but this thread is supposed to be about why British English is a good choice.
Obviously, if you want to go to Britain to live or study there, it's the obvious choice, but my question is of a more general nature.
Evvy   Sat Sep 02, 2006 11:24 am GMT
This is a list I came up with. If pupils ask whether they should study American or British English, this could be said (in favour of British English):

Why British English?

Eight reasons why British English is a great choice:


The English language originated in England (that's why it's called "English"). Of course, all the other varieties of English, like American English or Australian English, are equally correct. But the place where it all started, the "birth place" of the English language is the UK.


The way you speak and write tells others something about your cultural background. Therefore, especially for Europeans, British English is a very good choice. It's the variety of English that originated on their home continent.


With the process of European integration, British English has become the standard for pan-European organisations and associations like the European Union, the European Space Agency and Europol. British English is taught at most schools across Europe and is used in European courts. Companies that focus on the European market use British English.


Nowadays, American English is more dominant than British English in many areas, which is due to the large population of the United States and its economic and military power. But wouldn't it be very boring if there was only one standard of English spread across the world? By using British English or another variety of English, you can contribute to more linguistic variety and make English more interesting as a global language.


British English is often considered more international than other varieties. The reason: As far as spelling and usage are concerned, the majority of the English-speaking countries (Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand...) follow British conventions. Even in Canada, spellings like "centre", "neighbour" and "traveller" are preferred by newspapers and the government. Most international organisations use British spelling for their house style, examples include the United Nations, the OECD, the World Trade Organization, NATO and ISO. Note: For international purposes, the suffix -ize (like "organize") is often preferred. Both -ise and -ize are correct in British English.
Most international treaties are written in British English, for example The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Kyoto Protocol.


Most people associate the term "British accent" with a Southern English accent like Received Pronunciation (RP). But in fact, the British isles offer a great variety of beautiful accents, e.g. Scottish, Welsh and Irish.


To a great extent, modern British English spelling is based on Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, whereas American spelling was standardised by Noah Webster. It should be noted that in many cases American spelling seems more logical, but British spelling is often regarded as more aesthetic. It also preserves historical influences, especially from the French language (examples: "manoeuvre", "kilometre"). Even in American English, spellings like "theatre", "grey" and "glamour" are very popular.


The British accent (especially the Southern English accent) is often described as very "crisp" and "clear". Many people, including Americans, find it "pleasant to listen to". Films like Harry Potter, Pirates of the Carribean and Lord of the Rings owe some of their popularity to the extensive use of beautiful British accents.

Comments please! Can you think of other points?
Please feel free to correct my English, I'm not a native speaker.
Dan   Sat Sep 02, 2006 1:20 pm GMT
Well, that list looks quite complete to me...
zxczxc   Sat Sep 02, 2006 3:12 pm GMT

The vast bulk of the best works in the English language are in British English, if only for the fact that English has been in Britain a lot longer than it has in America. It makes sense to speak the same language as Shakespeare, Blake, Golding, etc., if you want to read the English classics.
Evvy   Sat Sep 02, 2006 5:58 pm GMT
Thanks for the suggestion.
Ben   Sat Sep 02, 2006 6:18 pm GMT
It doesn't matter. As for orthography and grammar rules, most countries in Asia adhere to Commonwealth norms anyway.

As for non-Brits trying to adopt any of their accents, please don't. Not only is it pretentious, it instantly identifies the speaker as a poseur and nothing in this world is more detestable than hoity-toity poseurs.
Johnathan Mark   Sat Sep 02, 2006 6:36 pm GMT
"It makes sense to speak the same language as Shakespeare, Blake, Golding, etc., if you want to read the English classics."

Are you claiming that the British speak Shakespearean English? I would love to hear such phrases as "'Tis now the very witching hour of night," "Methinks the lady doth protest too much," and "He jests at scars that never felt a wound" from modern British speakers, but I think you will admit that this is not reality.

Also, wasn't the English of Shakespeare's day rhotic, and possesing a vowel scheme closer to American than modern British?

I am not opposed to learning British spelling and pronunciation if it makes more sense, i.e., if the native speakers you encounter will be British.
Evvy   Sat Sep 02, 2006 6:48 pm GMT
The list is not aimed at native speakers, but at people learning English as a second language.
I wanted to collect some arguments for British English.
(Of course, there are also many reasons to learn American English).
Ben   Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:31 pm GMT
Alright. I'll keep my mouth shut. But I still maintain that speaking English with an indigeneous accent is perfectly acceptable, even desirable.
Travis   Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:57 pm GMT
>>Also, wasn't the English of Shakespeare's day rhotic, and possesing a vowel scheme closer to American than modern British?<<

It was rhotic, but the vowel system represented was different from that in both English English and North American English dialects today. In particular, the Great Vowel Shift was not complete yet, with /aI/ not existing but rather being /@I/ (or according to some /eI/ in Shakespeare's dialect), with /{:/ instead of present /e(I)/, and separate /e:/ and /i:/ which merged in most dialects to present /i:/. Likewise, he would have had /o:/ instead of the /oU/ or /@U/ present in many English dialects today. Also note that he would have not had separate /{/ (or /a/) and /A:/, but just rather would have had /a/ alone. Similarly, he would have had /O/ (corresponding to present /Q/) instead of /O:/ before /r/ in many words (separate from /o:/ in such positions). Likewise, he would have lacked a number of different vowel shifts before /l/ which are present in at least most English dialects today. Of course, he would have lacked the various vowel mergers that have occurred in many North American English dialects since then. All in all, one cannot really say that the vowel system he would have used would have been closer to that of modern English English or North American English dialects, as non-rhoticness and NAE vowel mergers aside, they are probably closer to each other with respect to vowel systems than they would be to Shakespeare's English.
Tiffany   Sun Sep 03, 2006 12:52 am GMT
I'll stay away from this thread. Evvy, perhaps you do not mean to imply one form of the langauge is better than another, but I fear that is the path this thread will go down in due time. Especially if a nationalist (ex Adam) gets a hold of it.
Robin   Sun Sep 03, 2006 6:45 am GMT
Years ago, as an 'Englishman', I was hitching in New York State. I got a lift, and the driver asked me: "Do they speak English, in England?"
Guest   Sun Sep 03, 2006 8:56 am GMT
<Years ago, as an 'Englishman', I was hitching in New York State. I got a lift, and the driver asked me: "Do they speak English, in England?">

Not surprised since you island dwellers have so many accents there! Some of them bearly understandable for me ears! LOL
Vincent   Sun Sep 03, 2006 8:59 am GMT
I prefer British English because it sounds clearer and softer (in my opinion). Moreover, as a Frenchman, I feel closer to the british culture than to the american one. And, of course, here in France we all are taught British English (at school). American English is for the businessmen.
Guest   Sun Sep 03, 2006 9:45 am GMT
>>Years ago, as an 'Englishman', I was hitching in New York State. I got a lift, and the driver asked me: "Do they speak English, in England?" <<

Well he's half right as the average Londoner isn't too flash in that department compared to say, Hugh Grant, Her Majesty and the like.