How do Americans perceive British spelling?

Did you know ... that not all English are the same as English?

That it is between the British and the (US)American English There are differences, as most will know. English is not only the official language of the British Isles and the USA, but also in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Pakistan and India, South Africa and many other African countries, in parts of the Caribbean, e.g. B. in Belize or Jamaica, on many Pacific islands, Papua New Guinea, the Seychelles ... All of these countries have linguistic peculiarities in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. But what exactly are the differences, where do they come from and what does that mean for understanding?

American English

Let's start with the differences between British and American English. Grammatically, the differences are small. In the USA there is a tendency Verbs more often weak to form, ie "burned" or "learned" instead of the irregular "burnt" or "learned". In the spelling, orthography the differences are more noticeable. Many words are spoken in the same way but written differently. gray / gray, license / license, color / color, center / center, theater / theater ... (both US / GB).

It gets a little more problematic with vocabulary when two for one thing different terms can be used: bathroom / toilet, drug store / pharmacy, baggage / luggage, apartment / flat, pavement / sidewalk ... Misunderstandings are certain to arise when the same word is used in two different meanings is used: If e.g. B. an Englishman would like to smoke a cigarette ("fag") ("I'm going out for a fag."), While this word is a dirty word for a gay in America. Such examples can be found in large numbers, especially in the area of ​​colloquial language, as this is often ambiguous and subject to permanent change. Another example would be that an English woman wants to be woken up the next morning (“Please knock me up.”), Which is a popular slang expression in the USA for getting pregnant (a woman).

There are also differences in pronunciation. However, those go in different Dialects below that are spoken within the UK and USA.

Australian and New Zealand English

The English language in Australia and New Zealand was influenced by various factors: The fact that the first immigrants were predominantly Irish from the lower classes of the population is reflected in pronunciation and vocabulary to this day. For example, there will be very many Curses and swear words used, but often not in their original meaning, but only for reinforcement and enhancement. The "i" is spoken very long, especially in Australia ("Siiidney"), which is attributed to Italian immigrants. Raising the Pitch at the end of the sentence, similar to the German in question sentences, as well as an "Eh!" appended to the end of the sentence, which means something like "isn't it? / isn’t it?" Also an easy one nasal pronunciation and a preference for Diminutive forms (“Brekkie” instead of “breakfast”) are typically Australian.

New Zealand is a little closer to British than Australian, but has many peculiarities that derive from the language of the New Zealand natives, the Maori. This applies to both vocabulary and its pronunciation.

Canadian English

About 60 percent of Canadians have English as their mother tongue, and over 80 percent can understand and speak it. Linguistically it is somewhere between British and American English. For example, "flavor" and "center" are written as in England, not "flavor" and "center" as in the USA.

Overall it is noteworthy that the Canadians at the spelling, orthography are very accommodating. There are no binding spelling rules, so that both British and American spelling are often used.

Due to the parallel use of English and French in Canada, there are transition effects between the languages. In English there are some loan words from French, so-called Gallicisms, and vice versa in French some Anglicisms.

Indian English

In India, English is especially important Official and educational language and is also used for communication between speakers of different Indian languages. It is only spoken really fluently by a privileged minority. It is therefore rather than Written language to look at, which means that it is hardly influenced by dialects or regional peculiarities.

Indian English is mainly based on British English due to India's colonial past. British dictionaries are therefore used. However, American is also accepted as "correct".

What is striking about Indian English is the pronunciation, which differs significantly from other variants. Many sounds are articulated differently, the "th", for example, is usually pronounced as "t". Plus, Indian has one Speech rhythmwhich is not based on the accents but on the number of syllables and therefore appears as "singsang".

In addition, there are some linguistic idiosyncrasies and idioms that come from Hindi and other Indian languages. At the end of a sentence, Indians like to use a “no”, which is derived from the Hindi word “na” and means something like “isn't it?”. Large numbers are often broken down into hundreds and tens of millions rather than thousands and millions. In the case of formal letters, the salutation is not "Dear Sir" but "Respected Sir", etc.

Caribbean English / Creole English

In the Caribbean are predominant Creole languages spoken. These emerged from the mixing of many peoples in a very small space. The languages ​​have also mixed up, with some completely new languages have arisen. Creole English, which is spoken e.g. in Jamaica, Panama or Costa Rica, is based on the English of the British colonial rulers, supplemented by indigenous American languages, African languages ​​and various European influences. It is also often called Bongo talk,Afro-Jam, Patwa (h) or Patois designated.

The omission of Progressive forms "I'm going / Mi a go" and the negation verbs with a simple "no" "I don’t go / Mi nuh go". Also be Personal pronouns not inflected, so “mi” can mean both “I” and “me”.

The frequent and very free use of the scion vowel "a" is typical of the sound of language. This can replace other vowels "observe / abserve" or also insert "way / weya". "They go home / Dem a go’ome" can even be used as a connection between different words.

The vocabulary also differs significantly from British English in some cases. B. Words from other languages ​​have been adopted.


As you can see, there are very significant differences between the various English versions. Some of them can already be called a language of their own. In other cases the differences are only minor.

Overall, it can be said that British or American “Standard English” is actually understood in all of the countries mentioned. Communication problems can only arise in reverse.

In business operations, an English translation is sufficient for all markets in many cases, depending on the target group into British or American English. However, if you want to address individual markets specifically, you should consider using the corresponding English. Many linguistic peculiarities are in fact described by the speakers as identity-creating perceived. This is more true for English than for other languages, as in view of its worldwide distribution, subtleties are used to distinguish. Language is here more than usual an expression of one's own originand cultural imprint, which is why it is also well suited to reach people emotionally and trust to build up.


Author: Eurotext editorial team

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