Should I Learn American English Or British English?

American and British English are both variants of World English. As such, they are more similar than different, especially with “educated” or “scientific” English. Most divergence can be ascribed to differing national histories and cultural development and the way in which the two national variants have changed correspondingly.

It was said by Sir George Bernard Shaw that “England and America are two countries separated by the same language”.

Written forms of American and British English as found in newspapers and textbooks vary little in their essential features, with only occasional noticeable differences in comparable media.

This kind of formal English, particularly written English, is often called ‘standard English’. It is therefore important for teachers to be aware of the major differences between the two. And while lexical differences are the easiest ones to notice, knowledge of grammatical and phonological differences can be useful not only for teachers to be aware of, but also to be able to deal with in business world. Lack of awareness can lead to embarrassment and confusion.

Another thing which has become apparent is the fact that there are no definitive answers. Not only do different counties/states use different terminology but there appears to be differences between generations as well. All this makes it very difficult to produce information with which everyone agrees.

What has become very evident over the years is just how much language is merging between all the various countries. In the UK we have adopted many, many “Americanisms” into everyday language and, I believe, some British terms are now used in the USA. This is probably due to travel and the wide exchange of TV programmes etc.

Some people asked, “Which is better American or British English?” Generally, it is agreed that no one version is “correct” however, there are certainly preferences in use. It depends upon which English you will be most exposed to. If you are moving to the US then learn American English, if you’re going to work for a British company then learn British English. And don’t forget there are many different kinds of English and the rising star of International English.

The most important rule of thumb is to try to be consistent in your usage. If you decide that you want to use American English spellings then be consistent in your spelling (i.e. The color of the orange is also its flavour – color is American spelling and flavour is British), this is of course not always easy – or possible. That both British English and American English are accepted on the examinations as long as you consistently use either one or the other. In other words, don’t mix
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