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Letters to the editor

Do write to us with your views about the English language and any questions you may have.

Dear Sirs

I am planning to attend a language course in order to improve my English. I should like to know whether to learn British or American English. Which is better? Must I have a British teacher if I wish to learn British English?

Yours truly

Manuel Gonzales

The Editor's reply

English is a global language with many varieties of spoken English. American and British English are the two dominant varieties. They each have many regional accents: the English of a Bostonian, for example, sounds very different from that of a Texan.

The major differences between American and English are essentially differences of accent, inflection, spelling and, above all, vocabulary. (Variations in tense-usage exist but are not a big problem for learners of English). Some people claim that British English is superior to American English but really it is a matter of one's own preference and needs as to which variety is learnt. So, "useful" is probably a more appropriate word than "better".

If you need to use English exclusively with British people (for example, if you are going to live in the United Kingdom) then it would probably be a good idea to have at least one British teacher on your programme.

However, in a lot of cases, learners of English as a foreign language need to use it to communicate with native speakers from all over the world. Many will need to speak English with other non-native speakers (for example, a Swede with an Italian). In such cases, whether your teacher is American or British is not particularly important.

In addition, there are excellent teaching books, audio and video cassettes, devoted to either British or American English. Your teacher will be able to select from these in order to provide you with relevant listening comprehension work and vocabulary input.




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