American English vs British English

2 August 2013

For two countries who speak the same language, there could not be more difference between American and British English. Since English spellings did not become standardised until the eighteenth century; on both sides of the Pond (more commonly known as the Atlantic Ocean!) many words are the same but some are different.  Different spellings, different pronunciations and even different words for the same thing; it can get confusing.

Spellings

One of the most common differences between American and British English uses the letter u.

US / UK
favorite / favourite
color / colour
honor / honour

Another difference comes in words that end in re.

US / UK
center / centre
liter / litre
fiber / fibre

These are just some of the differences in spelling present in American and British English. A quick search of the internet will bring up many more if you wish to find them.

Pronunciations

Many words in American English and British English are spelt differently and are pronounced slightly differently too. For instance, mom and mum are both words used as a shortened version for mother; mom being more present in American English and mum in British English. Looking at the phonetic spellings of these two words, we can see that they are pronounced differently; mom beingm” and mum being “mɐm”.

Words

Words can be different for the same thing or the same word for different things. For example, pants are used in the United States while trousers are used in Britain. Chips in the UK are fries in the USA while chips in the US are crisps back in Blighty.

Sometimes words exist in British English but not American English and vice versa. One common British word (and one that comes up in my vocabulary a lot, I will admit!) is naff. Naff is used to describe something uncool or silly-looking (That dress is so naff!). Similarly, a common description in American English is for something to be catty-corner. This means it is diagonally opposite to something, i.e. the movie theater is catty-corner to the store.

Which Do Schools Prefer?

Unfortunately, that is down to where you are and what your employers want you to teach your students. In Europe, British English is usually wanted over American English. However, some schools in Asia may prefer American English because it better suits the market there. Speakers of British English can find it easier to adapt to American English than American to British due to the large amount of American TV shows and films the British public watch.

Our TEFL courses are tailored more towards British English but we have plenty of people who speak American English enrolling on and completing the course with as much as ease as those who are more used to British English. We believe that anyone who can speak English to a native or near-native level can TEFL. Take a look at our course options here to find a course that best suits you.

For more information about TEFL, get a free brochure here!

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