Discover American English

  • Дрыгина Елена Владимировна, преподаватель английского языка

This lesson is recommended for pupils at an intermediate level.

Aim: Draw a comparison of British and American English

Present some of the differences in vocabulary, grammar, spelling and pronunciation.

Teaching Notes.

1. Warming up. Discussion.

Are there big differences in the way people speak your language?

Are there some words that are only used in certain places?

What differences in pronunciation are there?

2. English across the Atlantic.

2. 1 Words you know

Do you know any words from American English?

Can you tell the difference between British and American English?

How do British and American English sound different?

Work with a partner, brainstorm as many words as you know which are different in
American and British English. Hints: spelling, vocabulary, grammar differences, etc.

Add some more words that your teacher knows.

UK English USA English
  1. rucksack
  2. queue
  3. petrol
  4. block of flats
  5. trousers
  6. dustbin
  7. shop
  8. boot (of a car)
  9. bonnet (of a car)
  10. chemist
  11. garden
  12. lift
  13. lorry
  14. tap
  15. cooker
  16. cinema
  17. underground
  18. pavement
  19. postbox
  20. jam
  21. crisps
  22. chips
  23. biscuits
  24. sweets
  25. tarmac
  26. holiday
  27. autumn
  1. backpack
  2. line
  3. gas
  4. apartment building
  5. pants
  6. trashcan
  7. store
  8. trunk (of a car)
  9. hood (of a car)
  10. drugstore
  11. yard (a garden in US English tends to specifically refer to a vegetable garden)
  12. elevator
  13. truck
  14. faucet
  15. stove
  16. movie theatre
  17. subway
  18. sidewalk
  19. mailbox
  20. jelly
  21. chips
  22. French fries
  23. cookies
  24. candy
  25. pavement
  26. vacation
  27. fall

Some more differences:

Spelling

US English uses ‘-or’, where UK English uses ‘-our’.

Color colour

Neighbor neighbour

US English uses ‘-er’, where UK English uses ‘-re’.

Center centre

Theater theatre

Grammar

American English and British English sometimes use different prepositions.

AE: It’s twenty of six. It’s five after nine.

BE: It’s twenty to six. It’s five past nine.

American English doesn’t use the Present perfect as much as British English.

AE: I think I broke my leg.

BE: I think I’ve broken my leg.

Pronunciation

‘r’ is often not pronounced in British English. It is always pronounced in American
English.

AE: car /ka:r/ hard /ha:rd/

BE: car /ka:/ hard /ha:d/

‘a’ is usually short in American English but is often long in British English.

AE: ask banana

BE: ask banana

2.2. British or American?

Listen to six people speaking. Are they British or American?

Write ‘BE’ or ‘AE’ for each one.

Typescript

  1. Well, I don’t think British and American English are so different. (UK)
  2. They sound different, but most of the words are the same. There aren’t any real
    communication problems. (USA)
  3. I was talking on the phone to someone over there and he said he would give me a ring
    later. I thought, is he mad? A ring? What for? Anyway, he meant he was going to call me
    later! (USA)
  4. The accent’s different, that’s all really. Oh, and some words. (UK)
  5. I was in London once and asked somebody where the nearest drugstore was. They didn’t
    know what I was talking about! They say chemist or something. (USA)
  6. They say cookies, we say biscuits. They say jelly and we say jam. It’s just words like
    that. (UK)

3. Some differences

Why is it all right to walk on the pavement in Britain, but not a good idea in the USA?

If you asked for chips in an American restaurant, why would the waiter be surprised?

Why would people in Britain be surprised if you asked for gas for your car?

‘Pavement’ in Britain is ‘sidewalk’ in the USA.

‘Pavement’ in the USA is ‘tarmac’ in Britain.

‘Chips’ in the USA are in Britain ‘crisps’ in Britain.

‘Chips’ in Britain are’ French fries’ in the USA.

‘Gas’ in the USA is ‘petrol’ in Britain.

Read the sentences. Where does each person come from – Britain or America?

  • Can you tell me where the nearest chemist is? (Britain)
  • Do you have a trashcan here? (United States)
  • Is there a subway near here? (United States)
  • I live in a block of flats. (Britain)
  • It’s quarter of three. (United States)
  • Take the lift. It’s quicker the walking. (Britain)

Match the British English and American English words.

1. Holiday
2. Biscuits
3. Cinema
4. Underground
5. Sweets
6. Autumn
7. Postbox
8. Cooker
9. Rucksack
10. Tap
a. fall
b. stove
c. candy
d. mailbox
e. backpack
f. faucet
g. vacation
h. subway
i. movie theatre
j. cookies
  1. g
  2. j
  3. i
  4. h
  5. c
  6. a
  7. d
  8. b
  9. e
  10. f

1. Mother to son in the car:’ I just went to the shops and bought all this food.
Could you open the boot for me, please?’(British English)

2. Please line up on the right – hand side for movie tickets. (American English; The
word ‘movie’ is also used in Britain now.)

3. Jim: ‘Which way do you want to go to Grandma’s?’

Tracy: ‘Let’s just take the highway; it’s faster. ’(American English)

4. Anna: ‘Where did you go for your holidays?’

Susan: ‘We went to Greece. It was fab. ’(British English)

5. Tom: ‘I’d like a large portion of chips with that fish, please. ’(British
English; ‘fish and chips’ is a typical dish in Britain. What the rest of the world
refer to as ‘chips’ (crisps in the UK) is commonly served in bags.)

6. Clerk in fast — food restaurant: ‘Do you want a bag of chops with that
sandwich?’ (American English)

4. Separated by the same language?

What does the headline mean? Discuss this quotation by George Bernard Shaw means,
historically and today. Do you know any historical events that may have shaped differences
between Americans and British people? Do you personally know any Americans or any British
people? Have you noticed any differences? What about British and American TV programmes
and movies? Or newspapers and magazines? You may look at some web pages for major British
and American papers and see if you can see any differences.

Students may be asked to prepare for this discussion for the next lesson.

They can compare newspapers on the web, for example, The New York Times (www.
nytimes. com) and The Guardian (>www. gurdian. co. uk) for differences.

Background information

George Bernard Shaw, the author of this quotation was born in Dublin, Ireland; in 1856.
His family was too poor to send him to university, so he was self-taught. When he was in
his early twenties, he moved to London worked as journalist. After hearing a lecture on
nationalization, Shaw become interested in the socialist movement and soon joined various
socialist organizations. Besides writing for and about socialism, he started to write
plays, often with a political background. Major Barbara, Man and Superman and Saint
Joan
are some of the most famous. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in
1925. George Bernard Shaw died in 1950.

Although this lesson presents American English and British English as two distinct
varieties of English, in reality there is enormous variation within each country – both regionally
and socially, and in terms of register. The differences presented in this
lesson are generalizations.

The ‘standard ‘English of Britain is generally taken as the speech of educated
people who live in London and the south – eastern part of England (typified by ‘BBC
English’), but this is only one of many regional dialects (which include London Cockney,
Northern dialects, Midland dialects, South Western dialects, Welsh dialects, and Scottish,
Cornish, and Irish dialects ).

It is more difficult to talk in terms of a ‘standard’ American English and there is
a considerable number of dialect regions across the United States. United States English
has also had a strong influence on Canadian English.

In addition to British and American, there are also many other varieties. There are
distinct Australian dialects and New Zealand dialects as well as South Asian (including
India and Pakistan) and South African varieties. There are also varieties in each of the
African states where English is an official language (Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland,
Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana and
Liberia).

People often ask which is the ‘correct’,’ best’, or ‘purest’ form. There is
no answer to that question as each variety has evolved to meet the needs of the people who
speak it. Some varieties have a higher status than other varieties, mainly because they
are the varieties spoken by these that economic and/or political power.

STUDENT’S HANDOUT

1. Discussion.

Are there big differences in the way people speak your language?

Are there some words that are only used in certain places?

What differences in pronunciation are there?

2. English across the Atlantic.

2.1. Words you know

Do you know any words from American English?

Can you tell the difference between British and American English?

How do British and American English sound different?

Work with a partner, brainstorm as many words as you know which are different in
American and British English. Hints: spelling, vocabulary, grammar differences, etc.


__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________

Add some more words that your teacher knows.

2.2 British or American?

Listen to six people speaking. Are they British or American?

Write ‘BE’ or ‘AE’ for each one.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

3. Some differences

Why is it all right to walk on the pavement in Britain, but not a good idea in the USA?

If you asked for chips in an American restaurant, why would the waiter be surprised?

Why would people in Britain be surprised if you asked for gas for your car?

Read the sentences. Where does each person come from – Britain or America?

  • Can you tell me where the nearest chemist is?
  • Do you have a trashcan here?
  • Is there a subway near here?
  • I live in a block of flats.
  • It’s quarter of three.
  • Take the lift. It’s quicker the walking.

Match the British English and American English words.

  1. Holiday
  2. Biscuits
  3. Cinema
  4. Underground
  5. Sweets
  6. Autumn
  7. Postbox
  8. Cooker
  9. Rucksack
  10. Tap
a. fall
b. stove
c. candy
d. mailbox
e. backpack
f. faucet
g. vacation
h. subway
i. movie theatre
j. cookies

Read the sentences and decide whether they are written British English or American
English.

  1. Mother to son in the car:’ I just went to the shops and bought all this food. Could
    you open the boot for me, please?’
  2. Please line up on the right – hand side for movie tickets.
  3. Jim: ‘Which way do you want to go to Grandma’s?’
  4. Tracy: ‘Let’s just take the highway; it’s faster. ’
  5. Anna: ‘Where did you go for your holidays?’
  6. Susan: ‘We went to Greece. It was fab. ’
  7. Tom: ‘I’d like a large portion of chips with that fish, please. ’
  8. Clerk in fast — food restaurant: ‘Do you want a bag of chops with that sandwich?’

4. Separated by the same language?

What does the headline mean? Discuss this quotation by George Bernard Shaw means,
historically and today. Do you know any historical events that may have shaped differences
between Americans and British people? Do you personally know any Americans or any British
people? Have you noticed any differences? What about British and American TV programmes
and movies? Or newspapers and magazines? You may look at some web pages for major British
and American papers and see if you can see any differences.