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Learning British English


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Hi everyone. I was just wondering if there's an online tutorial out there that specifically teaches British (UK?) English or something similar?

English is my second language but I've found that while more of my learned English falls on American English, there's bits and pieces which are more British English and I just became curious about it. I'm sure most people have both in their English too but it's just interesting to know things about the differences in the language, in/formal speech and maybe some slang.

Which English are you fluent in and what differences have you found between your English and other English-speaking people?

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I am a native English speaker and I speak British English. Unfortunately, I can't say whether or not there is an online tutorial that teaches British English. There are definitely some differences with the two types of English. One particular difference has to do with spelling. For example, some words in the American English that are spelt with 'er' at the end are spelt with 're' in the Bristish English.

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For example, some words in the American English that are spelt with 'er' at the end are spelt with 're' in the Bristish English.

Right? Like centre/center and spectre/specter. And the usually 'u' with honour/honor, favourite/favorite, etc. I am also more familiar with pavement than sidewalk which I just recently been told is more common in British English than the American one.

I think the internet is making things more muddled because different people from different countries with different ways to write English are conversing everyday and influencing each other. I remember having read the Harry Potter books before (the UK version) and having a discussion with someone who read the US version and the different things that were changed so people with varying English knowledge can understand it better, haha.

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@ petruka, the Americans know pavement and sidewalk as curb. The difference can be quite confusing at times. The internet doesn't even approve it, spell check will tell you that the spelling is wrong if you use the British spelling.

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If you're interested in pronunciation, you should check out RP, and if you're more interested in spelling, then I bet you can find the pointers almost anywhere. The difference is in lexis (apartment - flat), spelling (tyre- tire, plough - plow, pyjamas - pajamas, honour - honor, centre - center, dialogue - dialog), but also in stressing the words. For example, British speakers stress the word adult on the first syllable, whereas American on the second: 'adult vs a'dult. This is very common. Buoy is for example pronounced boi in BrE and bu:i in AmE, though BrE also accepts AmE variant...

You should bear in mind that even though these are ''standards'', both variants can be found in both American and British English. Language, after all, adapts to the surroundings and time and this ''melting pot'' is one of the consequences of globalisation.

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The above post pretty much sums up the differences between US and British English. In practice, there are not really any communication difficulties between British and American speakers of English, except for speakers with very strong accents and regional dialects (e.g. Scottish, Geordie), but people can usually moderate their accents to be understood. As a non-native speaker there are only a few vocabulary differences that can cause potential problems:

Rubber in British English means an eraser as found on a pencil. In US English it means a condom.

Bum in US English means a hobo. In British English it means what you sit on.

Fanny in US English means what you sit on. In British English it means, er... something only females have.

Fag in British English means cigarette. In US English it's a term of abuse.

There are probably others if anyone else wants to chip in.

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We also use the American English. Thus, it was a bit difficult adjusting to my work where British English is  used. One of the first things I learned in the company of British colleagues is the term for a sweatshirt. It is jumper to them. While is whilst to them. Review is revision. Resignation letter is referred to as a note, like, I handed in my note this morning. Fall is autumn. Movie house is cinema. Elevator is lift. Parking lot is car park. Lost and found is lost property. Chips is crisps. Gas is petrol. And the list goes on. There are loads of differences, in words, spellings and pronunciation. And of course, the accent!

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Thanks for the pointers Aureliae!

And also:

The difference is in lexis (apartment - flat), spelling (tyre- tire, plough - plow, pyjamas - pajamas, honour - honor, centre - center, dialogue - dialog)

I know you said globalization has been influencing languages, especially those which are basically the same ones, but this is a perfect example of what I was saying, that my English is mostly American with smatterings of British English (that I didn't even know were British English until it was pointed out).

Because I know apartment, pyjamas and dialogue more but spell it as plow, honor and center. I have never actually encountered dialog before, huh.

But thanks again and to everybodyknows and Verba too. It's so interesting to see the different words and spellings between similar languages. :)

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This was exactly my point. There are a lot of words which are entering British English (and were originally associated with American) and vice versa, though it must be admitted that this is mostly the case with American words. TV is doing wonders for American English - the mass media is surrounding us with this version of the English language that sometimes we aren't even aware of the influences until they're pointed out, as you'd said, petrushka.

What I'd written in my previous post is just the general ''American'' or ''British'' way. Of course, it's not forbidden to use both. I think only formal speech and writings may be exception where it will be expected that you follow either one or the other standard, but other than that, they're interchangeable.

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  • 1 month later...

From what I gather, most of British English is just different spellings of some words. If I also remember correctly, there is no Z in the British Alphabet? I could be confusing that with something else though. Most of the words are pronounced the same in American and British  English.

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I don't think there is a plače where you can learn this specifically, because I guess everyone just assumes that American English would be what most people are after. Your best bet is probably to hire an online tutor specifically from the region you want to learn from so you can learn specific phrases and accents or even spelling if you want to go that deep into it.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I think the best way to learn the differences between British English and American is to get to know someone from the UK. With the internet, it is easy to make online friends and there is someone out there that will help you. I talk with a few people from the UK and I have picked up on the differences in relatively short order.

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It is perfectly possible to learn to speak English with a perfect or near perfect Standard American or Standard British accent, but you need 2 things: 1) professional coaching or at least a good resource to teach you the ins and outs of the target accent and 2) strong determination

I personally know (and have taught) many people who changed their accents from non native to native sounding. It really is just a question of understanding 'sounds' that need to be made in order to dramatically improve your accent and in many cases get rid of your non native ('foreign') accent.

Please let me know if you have any other questions or need help.

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Hugh Laurie.  The guy that plays House MD.    Totally, and absolutely blew my mind the first time I saw him being interviewed on late night.  I watched that show for years and never had any inkling that he was brittish.  Then you see him doing an interview, and he has a really thick english accent.  Just an amazing job he did with ´americanizing´ his accent for that show.

It is strange to me to talk too much about  UK vs USA english, when the fact is that the USA alone has the same issue with word usage.  If you are from the NE, and you go to the deep south, the ´language´ there is about as far away from your english as UK english is.

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I think you can learn British english by just buying a nice book, I had a really nice one that highlighted the differences between British and American english. It's really cool.  I'm sure you can find a similar book.  I don't remember the name f the book anymore tho, because I no longer have it and bought it so long ago.  But if you search I'm sure you can find.  You will see the main difference between UK and US English is the spelling, plus a lot new words!

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I have been exposed to American English more than British, because my homeland (the Philippines) was once a U.S. colony.  Our English review classes have been focusing on the basics of grammar from an American English perspective.  When it comes to spelling of words we rely on the American English spelling.  However, there are some terms derived from British English, such as economy class in airlines (we don't use coach class).

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Hey, what you can do is go to your nearest British Council (pretty much every country in the world has one) and ask them. For me personally, just watch British TV and movies, you'll learn their accents and dialects. Read British books like Harry Potter. To be honest the differences between British and American English aren't that huge aside from the accents, so you'll be okay if you just learn one or the other

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  • 7 months later...

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