Friday, July 10, 2009

Different Shades of English

After my Korean class on Wednesdays a few of us go out to dinner together afterwards. At first there were about 10 of us but then participants in this free Korean class started to dwindle and it was down to just us sticklers.

We would pick a different place to eat at every time and usually it was a non-Korean cuisine.

The interesting part of our meals were the conversations. In particular I think this is what is most enjoyable about living in Korea. That is meeting people from different parts of the world.

At our last get together after class I met with a South African, New Zealander and a Britain. One of the conversations we had was about how they can't stand teaching "American" English.

For example Americans call the device where water comes out of in a sink the "faucet" but for the others at my table they called it the "tap". The South African when first hearing it called a "faucet" here in Korea that it was some old English word that nobody uses and so taught it that way. She corrected it for her students thus teaching them to call it the "tap".

I found this conversation amusing because it shows how English speaking people have different words for the same thing. It is really fun to sit down with non-Americans and share these differences in the English language.

What happens most often, I notice, is that the non-Americans end up complaining a little bit about the American usage for certain things. Certainly I heard this kind of griping during our dinner. The British guy said he refuses to use American words.

As for our students I think they mostly know about American English. Therefore it may be a good idea to do a lesson comparing English spoken across the globe.

All in all, I always have a fun time calling the hood of the car the "bonnet" and the trunk the "boot."


  1. At my school there's a British teacher and a South African teacher. While I'm not sure how they feel about 'American' English, they tend to teach the words in their own national context. I've found myself steering students to them to help them learn what another culture calls the same thing... For the record, I've used more British English in the past 4 months than I have in my life before...

  2. Same with Spanish. My fluent Tex-Mex doesn't mesh well with Spanish from Spain, Puerto Rico, or South America. I never knew that there were so many different localized Spanish words for eye glasses or even oranges. However, I give kudos to my Spanish teachers in the U.S. that came from Spain, Honduras, Paraguay, and Mexico who all tried to use the Spanish that my university requested--Southwestern U.S./Tex-Mex based Spanish that would serve us best. There wasn't, and isn't, much need for Castillian Spanish in Texas.

  3. I didn't even consider trying to teach Canadian english. The CD for elementary school is so full of Americanisms, I thought it would just confuse them to tell them about Zed vs Zee, for example.

  4. I'm American but teach British variations and pronunciation from time to time. "Controversy" and "laboratory" seem to bring the most interest. (And initial confusion!)

    At our last get together after class I met with a South African, New Zealander and a Britain.

    Do you mean a Briton, or one of the British Isles? ^^;;


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