I was taught British English. I never really thought about the words I was learning, but now studying in the U.S. some English words are just weird!
The English language is the most used in the world as it is breaks barriers and acts as a mediator between many other various languages. As time goes on, the English language itself has grown exponentially to include acronyms, not only in the written language but also the spoken words.
I come from a developing country whose first language is English, however, the country itself is comprised of 83 islands all of whom have several languages. I was taught in the old British curriculum, which placed great significance on “proper” English. My father, however, has had more experience in this matter. My mother, was brought up in Australia, and they also have certain words they use as well, that can’t be found elsewhere. I was taught English from a very young age and never really thought about the words I was learning, or about what type of English I was learning either.
The one word that really stood out to me was aluminum. As previously mentioned, I was taught using British English and pronunciations, so I always said aluminium. Of the all times I’ve mentioned it, people kept correcting me. I assumed I was taught wrongly, however, it is just the difference in articulation of the word. Even now, as I’m typing, the autocorrect is telling me, my British spelling is wrong. Another common one is French fries; I referred to them as chips, still do sometimes.
The name “Shiela” is used to describe women or bloke was used to describe men. My younger sister is more influenced by American English and culture so she often wonders what I’m talking about when I tell her to put on her “jumper” when its cold out. It means sweater.
Another would be thongs; it means sandals, while in the U.S., it would mean a ladies unmentionables. There are also differences in spelling one has to get used to, for example, Mum vs. Mom, aeroplane vs. airplane, tyre vs. tire, plough vs. plow, theatre vs. theater, etc. It takes getting used to, but not unpleasant though I catch myself going back and forth between the three.
It isn’t as if I’ve stopped using British or Australian English altogether. With globalization growing exponentially, we see more and more people becoming aware of the differences and similarities in the English language as it varies from country to country. With the rise of internet slang words and emoticons , it is a wonder how, we as humans, manage to communicate to one another.
We still often debate the proper pronunciations of certain words because we get confused as to which is the exact pronunciations. I guess, since the whole world speaks this language, it is not reserved to say that variations can be found.
Carlene Toa is an international student studying at Northern Virginia Community College.
Her article was a finalist for our microscholarship program.