I am not going to miss an opportunity to tease my cousins from ‘across the water’ and make this an English versus American post. Why miss the opportunity to wind up my friends who know me so well! 🙂 sorry guys I could not help myself.
One of the truly great reasons to go out and adventure far and wide, is to meet new people from strange new lands, who speak with a different tongue, hang on a minute, if they are speaking English but with an accent and they spell some words differently and pronounce some words differently and they have their own slang and colloquialisms and dialects, does that mean it is a different language?
Well apparently Yes.
There is a new English Language called American English and it has been around a while, in fact since American Independence, when one fine fellow called Webster wanted to customise hmm sorry customize their language to be more like an independent language. Dropping some unnecessary letters and bringing in some new ones, but the words mean the same and in essence are only one letter different and so was born American English!
But stranger still, this means to infer that there is this other language which is called British English and I thought I just spoke English with a different accent to my Australian, South African, Canadian and anywhere that us colonials had been forcing our practices around the world.
Let’s not even go into how many different accents and dialects of English exists in England, let alone Britain.
I figure that the language, although it is called English does not belong to a country, but it does have a name to call it by, and with the ridiculous inconsistent complexities of the English Language why would we want to confuse anyone by insisting there are two English Language versions, ‘there can be only one’!
Suffice to say that there are countries that require by law for English to be the used as their primary language and others that use it primarily but it is not law, and then there are those who use it as a secondary language.
Now getting back to my story, here am I at a Brazilian Language Camp making friends with Brazilians and Americans. It is perfectly natural for English people to play with the English language using puns, idioms, phrasal verbs, similes and the like without even thinking, much of our upbringing encourages us to read literature, appreciate poems and music.
Our new pals we met at The Fools, Krysta and Ben are travelling around the world from their home in Colorado, ‘the states’ as they tell me, which I think is short for the United States and we all know that is short for the United States of America phew! or the USA or for short the US.
I have learned that British people use the word ‘trousers’ and not ‘pants’, that word is reserved for Americans only, and the stereotyping keeps on going, I know what a ‘pitcher’ is but always thought that this was a ‘jug’ with beer or juice, I know what ‘muesli’ is and that it’s a borrowed word from German and so on and so on, It must be so difficult for a learner to know which to choose or that there is even a choice, then having to learn the differences, I am sure irregular verbs are hard enough on a good day in class, let alone the awesome marketers out there who convince us of this new language.
So with my utter contempt for the marketing of international exams that pass or fail people with English that they can or cannot use, just to keep their wheel of fortune bringing in more $ or pounds, I wonder if the students out there just want to be understood in this global language or they want to sound like me or my cousins and does anyone really care?
One thing for sure, travelling and listening first hand to people learning English for their fluency and helping them in that quest, I get to learn an awful lot about the way language and culture are intertwined in society.
A final point on this, there is no way I am going to call my sport ‘Soccer’ when its real name is ‘Football’ just because ‘American Football’, which is mainly played by holding the ball with hands, like ‘Handball’ would confuse Americans. So the marketers did their stuff back in 1970’s with ‘Soccer’ convincing nations that they should adopt this name.
Just imagine my joy at making two great American friends in Ben and Jacob at The Fools and playing ‘Baseball Derby’ against these two sportsmen. After round one of pitching the score for their national pastime was Ben with 7 home runs, Jacob with 7 home runs and poor me who has never played ending with a meagre 8 home runs. Yes, you guessed it, we had a second round just so the boys could eventually show their worth and beat me by 1 home run.
Well done boys! But let’s practice pronouncing the letter Zed and the letter Zee.