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Thursday, December 29, 2011



Which do you find easier to understand, spoken English or written English? Why do you think this is?


English learners today must learn not just English, but EnglishES. If you choose between British English and American English, this isn't the end of the problem. That's because most English speakers--I mean natives of the U.K., the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other "English-speaking countries"-- don't really speak "standard English" day-to-day.

If you have learned English as a second language, you probably have noticed that your foreign friends, or people in movies, speak differently from what you read in a textbook. That's because, as with most languages, the spoken and written ways of expression are quite different. Speakers fill their speech with slang, colloquialisms, swear words, informal pronunciation and constructions, and so on.

Sometimes it seems like the language learner doesn't have a chance!


Note: Beware of false distinctions! Some books will say things like "Taxi is British, and cab is American," when in fact both words are used in both countries!


Can you give the American equivalents for these fifteen common British words?

1. biscuit
2. car park
3. chemist's shop
4. chips
5. dustbin.
6. flat
7. lift
8. lorry
9. maths
10. nappy
11. petrol
12. queue
13. rubber
14. tin
15. torch


1. Aside from the words above, do you know other words that are different in the U.K. and America? Do you know words in other "Englishes" besides the US and UK (Australia, maybe, or India)?
2. How and why do you think these different "Englishes" developed?
3. The great Irish writer George Bernard Shaw wrote, "England and America are two countries separated by a common language." What do you think he meant?


American English:
1. cookie (a biscuit in America is a small piece of bread, like a roll)
2. parking lot
3. drugstore, pharmacy
4. fries, French fries ("chips" are very thin wafers, like "potato chips")
5. garbage can, trash can
6. apartment
7. elevator
8. truck
9. math
10. diaper
11. gas, gasoline
12. line
13. eraser ("rubber" is a boot to go over the shoe in the rain; or a condom)
14. can
15. flashlight ("torch" is a stick with fire on the end)

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

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