The US vs UK English Debate: Which Should You Learn?

English

Deciding whether to learn British or American English is a purely personal decision. There are a number of factors to consider. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

Are you looking to learn English for work or for pleasure?

Will you be speaking English with Americans, Britons, or native speakers of another language?

Which will be easier for you to learn?

Which accent is easier for you to pronounce?

Which version of English does your teacher speak?

Do you simply like one version of English better than the other?

If you ask yourself these questions and still don´t have a clear idea of whether American or British English would be a better choice for you, there are pros and cons to each that are also worth taking into account.

 

Media

The media industry is dominated by American English. If you like learning English by watching television shows, movies, videos on YouTube, and listening to podcasts, you will find more material available if you are studying American English. Nevertheless, there are also plenty of movies, television shows and other media available in British English.

 

Science and Computing

American English also dominates science and computing. If you are interested in these fields, you may find American English to be more useful and relevant.

 

Which is the authority?

Both American and British English are well documented and there is a wealth of dictionaries out there focusing on each. It is universally thought, however, that the top English language dictionaries are made in the UK and focus on British English. There is also a contingent of people who believe that British English is the “correct” form of English. While no version of English is correct or incorrect, Modern English does have its origins in the English of Britain. Others believe that the authority lies with usage by the strongest party, which could be used to argue that American English is the “correct” version.

 

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Attitude

When Americans think of the British accent, they are generally thinking of Received Pronunciation (RP), which is the accent used by the British upper class. It is also referred to as the Queen´s English. American English speakers stereotypically perceive the British accent to be snobbish and pretentious or intelligent and sexy. On the other hand, the American accent and vocabulary may be perceived by Britons as evidence of low class.

 

Prevalence

American English is ten times more prevalent than British English. Instead of comparing prevalence in general, it may be more instructive to consider the prevalence of different accents within the two versions of English. In most language schools that teach British English, RP is used. RP is, however, spoken in the UK by only a small percentage of Britons. Local accents vary widely and can be difficult for the untrained ear to understand. In the United States and Canada, there are fewer local differences with the exception of the American south which has a distinct accent, especially in rural regions.

Fortunately, speakers of American and British English are familiar with each other´s version of English thanks to our global world. Americans watch Harry Potter and Britons enjoy Hollywood blockbusters. There are pros and cons to each version of English, though ultimately if your goal is to communicate with others in English, they are both viable options. Both American and British English are well-understood by most English speakers, so no matter your decision, you will find that you are able to use your English universally.

This English language guide is proudly presented by ELEC Language Center – Study English in Malaysia