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BRITISH OR AMERICAN ?

Posted on: December 21, 2010


BRITISH OR AMERICAN ? : An Introduction

By: Indri Wuryaningsih, S.Pd

Before 1500s, English language was only used in great Britain and the area around it. After the century, English started to spread around the world. The spreading, possibly, is caused by the great emigration from England to America and Australia. Nowadays, hundreds of years after the great emigration, English becomes the international language and second language in many countries. This fact tends to raise many kinds of English : British English (English used by Englishman), American English (English used by American people), Australian English (English used by Australian), Black English(English used by Afro-American people or generally known as “Negro”).

From the kinds of English above, however, there are only two styles  which have great influence; those are British English and American English. It doesn’t mean that the other styles is not important. Briefly, in this paper the writer just wants to discuss about the differences between British and American English.  How can we know the differences?

If  we read English book we will soon know whether the author of the book uses British English or American English from the diction he chooses. The following are some examples of words written differently in   British English or American English:

British American British American
Centre 

Sombre

Theatre

Armour

Colour

Honour

Neighbour

Rumour

Plough

cheque

Center 

Somber

Theater

Armor

Color

Honor

Labor

Rumor

Plow

check

Grey 

Programme

Jewellery

Storey (tingkat)

Pyjamas

Tyre

Connexion

gaol

Gray 

Program

Jewelry

Story

Pajamas

Tire

Connection

jail

The second way in detecting whether  British English or American English used in a text is by  referring to “marker”.  There are many kinds of things which have different name in England or America. Gasoline, for example, in England is called petrol but in America is named gas. So “pompa bensin” is called petrol station in England and gas station in America. The others are as in the following examples:

British American British American
Zebra crossing 

Waist coast

Underground train

Time table

Telephone box

Taxi

Sweet biscuits

Rubbish

Ring

pavement

Pedestrian crossing 

Vest

Subway

Schedule

Telephone booth

Cab

Cookies

Garbage

Call (up)

Side walk

Railway 

Public school

Public lavatory

Post

Lorry

Jumper

Holiday

Flat

Picture, film

autumn

Railroad 

Private school

Rest room (WC)

Mail

Truck

Sweater

Vacation

Apartment

Movie

fall

The third way is by checking the grammar used in the conversation or text. For example, the use of  verb have in a sentence.

British American

I haven’t time                                                  I don’t have time.

Have you time for me?                         Do you have time for me?

In the use of subjunctive:

British American

The commander demanded the soldiers             The commander demanded the soldiers

should assemble on fort Knox soon.                 assemble on  fort Knox soon.

The dentist suggested that she should The dentist suggested that she brush

brush her teeth before sleeping.             her teeth before sleeping.

As what we see in the examples above, British English put on should + infinitive without to after that …phrase preceded by certain verbs (demand, suggest, insist, urge) while American English doesn’t use should but infinitive without to regardless the subject or the tenses of the sentence.

In spoken British English, to express future tense modal shall is often  used with first pronouns ( I and We) . But American English uses will to shall.

Spoken British English                                        Spoken American English

We shall go to Paris next week                       We will go to Paris next week.

I shall finish this report tomorrow                     I will finish this report tomorrow

The use of preposition in the front of street name is also different:

British                                                             American

My Family used to live in Lela street                 My Family used to live on Lela street

We saw the differences between British English and American English. Which one is better?. Both of them are good.  We can choose one of it as long as we are consistence with our choice.

Choose one chair!

Skh, July 20 2003

Dimuat di Majalah “Suara Al-Hadi”, dalam rubrik “English Corner”.  Majalah  Bulanan di SMP Al Hadi Mojolaban Sukoharjo tahun 2003. Diringkas  dari : Bahasa Inggris, Wishnubroto Widarso,  Penerbit  Kanisius, 1989

(Sebuah tulisan ketika kami dulu “belajar menulis  dalam bahasa Inggris“. Guru pun ketika jarang berlatih menulis ternyata mengalami banyak  kesulitan. Ketika kami membaca ulang tulisan ini, kami sering tertawa sendiri, betapa banyaknya kesalahan yang kami buat-dalam berbagai aspek penulisan. JADI, KALAU KITA MEMINTA SISWA MENULIS SEBUAH TEKS, SUDAHKAH KITA MENULIS TEKS BUATAN KITA SENDIRI?…….JANGAN-JANGAN KETIKA KITA DISURUH MENULIS……HASILNYA LEBIH BURUK DARI SISWA KITA…….HE HE HE)

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