Let’s look at the differences between these three types of English.
If you’re reading this article, I’m assuming your English is at a level where you’ve realised it doesn’t really matter which type of English you speak, you can understand all types. But it is interesting to look at some of the differences between the types of English and if you want to sound more like a native, which English do you choose?
Why are these types of English so different?
We’re all speaking the same language, so why are these types of English so different?
First of all, let’s look at the differences between the UK and the USA. The UK accent as we know it today only became popularised during the Victorian times, long after the USA has claimed it’s independence from the British and became it’s own country. So as the accents changed in the UK and we adapted new words, it didn’t travel across the Atlantic.
This also makes sense as to why the Australian accent is different from the British accent. Even though Australia didn’t become it’s own country until 1901, the first settlement was in 1788. 1788 would have been when these two types of English started to split and changes during the Victorian times wouldn’t have been strong enough to get across the other side of the world to change an already well established accent.
The USA accent also has influences from the Dutch as they also travelled to the new world with the puritans. So you have an English accent, from the 1600’s with a Dutch influence that has been largely separate from other English speaking countries in day to day communications.
USA: Gas station
UK: Petrol station
Australia: Petrol station/servo
USA: Flip flops
UK: Flip flops
Australia: Thongs – (In the USA and the UK a thong is a G-string so this isn’t really a mistake you can afford to make!)
After reading this, which words do you use? Do you use a mix or is there a type of English that you use more than others. Let us know in the comments below which type of English you speak and why.
Films, TV and Music
The great thing about American English is all of the films, TV programmes and music available.
Culture from the USA is very popular and reaches nearly every country. So if you’re learning English it would make sense that this is the kind of English you would learn.
Having said this, more and more films are being produced in the UK and the film industry there does seem to be on the rise again, which might create an increase in British movies in the next few years.
Also with Netflix producing it’s own original series, the standard of TV is being raised and this seems to be reaching all countries. With the internet it’s becoming much easier to find series that are country specific rather than just what’s popular at the time.
Which is easiest to understand?
It seems to be quite a common thing among non native speakers that English from the USA is the easiest to understand. This is probably because out of the three, they speak the slowest, the most clearly and the loudest.
It also has something to do with the above point, which is we see so much American media that we’re probably more accustomed to it than other types of English.
British English speakers tend to speak more quietly than Americans, quicker and tend to have stronger accents. So even if you like the accent, it can be a bit tricky. Also in the UK, the accents vary much greater from region to region compared to the USA and Australia. Therefore if you learn the Queen’s English but you go to Liverpool or Glasgow you still might struggle to understand people which I imagine could be pretty frustrating.
Interestingly, when Scandinavians learn English they tend to sound more like British speakers than American speakers. This may have something to do with linguistic similarities between the two languages due to viking invasions. Some accents in the north of England have similar phonemes to Norwegian.
As for Australian English, although the accent is quite strong, they do tend to speak quite clearly and loudly, and there isn’t that much difference in accents between regions. However, with Australian English, their pop culture just isn’t that popular. Who watches Australian TV shows? Apart from watching neighbours during the 90s I can’t say I watch any Australian television, or that it’s even available in my country.
Which should I learn?
To be honest, I don’t think it really matters what English you learn, you will be understood in all places. The accents vary but the grammar is the same, as are the majority of words. There are a few words which differ from country to country but this really isn’t an issue. You can just pick those words up when you go to that specific country.
International English is closest to American English. Most foreigners will tend to use American words over British or Australian words. It’ll probably be easier to follow American television than British television.
However, whenever I speak to a foreigner in English, if they don’t have the accent of their country I always expect them to have an American accent. So when they have a British accent, I’m normally incredibly impressed. As would most people from the UK be too.
Also why are you planning on learning English?
If it’s for general work then a neutral international accent is fine. If you want to live in one of those countries it might be worth learning the English of that country. Unless you’re moving to Australia, or you live in South East Asia, I would find it surprising if you chose to learn Australian. But if you like that accent then by all means go for it.
American English is probably the easiest English to learn, but if you can master that British accent it really would be worth it and would set you apart from other non native speakers.
- Which type of English do you like best and why?
- Which would you learn?
Please let us know in the comments below.