Are you now learning English as a second or foreign language? Along the course of learning process, we might find English relatively tricky especially after we find out there are more than one variety to distinguish and learn. For the record, there are so many English variants spoken in different parts of the globe. There are American English, British English, Australian English, Singaporean English, Indian English, etc. Some English learners regard this as their learning hindrance. This diversity obviously leads to a number of arising questions that actually reflect how confused English learners. Students often ask, “Which variety to learn best of all?” or “Which English is better?” or “Which one is more internationally acceptable?”. I’ll leave the questions unanswered because each of the answers depends on varied factors.
Apart from the bewilderment, I’d like to show you how different the three English variants are based on some criteria. The criteria I’m using here to distinguish one from another are spelling, pronunciation, and vocabulary.
This is the easiest way to distinguish and determine whether the English we’re reading/ dealing with is inclined to be in American, British, or Aussie tone. As we read word by word, we may notice this different way of spelling a word.
- criticise (British-Australian) – criticize (American)
- theatre (Br- Au) – theater (Am)
- gaol (Br) – jail (Am)
- amoeba (Br) – ameba (Am)
- aeroplane (Br) – airplane (Am)
- odour (Br) – odor (Am)
- aluminium (Br) – aluminum (Am)
- enroll (Br) – enrol (Am)
- draught (Br) – draft (Am)
Australian English in some ways are just like British English.
There are several diferences we can find in terms of how a word is pronounced:
- Australian and British English speakers usually never pronounce final -r (e.g ‘bar’ is pronounced /ba:/). However, American English speakers normally pronounce the final -r (e.g. ‘bar’ /bar/).
- different stressed syllable, e.g. adult can be pronounced /’aedalt/ (Br) or /e’dalt/ (Am)
- different vowels, e.g. “can’t” can be pronounced /ka:nt/ (Br) or /kaent/ (Am), “enchant” /In’cha:nt/ (Br) or /In’chaent/.
- Australian English speakers tend to shorten phrases, e.g. good day – g’day
There are different words that are used to refer to the same thing. For example, to call the metal covering over the engine on a car, British people say ‘bonnet‘ but American say ‘hood’.
- bonnet (Br-Au) – hood (Am)
- sidewalk (Br-Au) – pavement (Am)
- windscreen (Br)- windshield (Am)
- gear stick (Br) – gear shift (Am)
- bloke (Aus) – man
- arvo (Aus) – afternoon
- porridge (Br) – oatmeal (Am)
Back to the questions above, if you ask me, I’d say that we’d better learn all of the varieties, which later enables us to know and select which is the best when dealing with people coming from the three regions. Learning all provides us more flexibility. Speaking of which is better, I never think one variety is better than the others. Knowledge on each variety enriches our English in general. So why bother choosing one or avoiding learning the others? When it comes to which English can meet the international writing or pronunciation standards, I’d suggest you not to think of it too much. As a matter of fact, it is relatively acceptable for an American person to write an email to his British pal with his own American style, or the other way around. As long as the message is well understood, no linguistic discrepancy can stop us communicating and interacting with another part of the world.