Thursday, 27 September 2012

Which English is this, anyway?

As an Australian teaching English in a region where the reigning standard is American English, I often have to make choices about pronunciation and word use and WHICH English is to be taught.

As such I found fascinating this  article on the rise of 'Britishisms' in American English.

It is news to me that in both directions, publishers take agressive measures attempt to insulate their language base from influence from'other' Englishes - To be honest I always thought it was Americans trying to insulate themselves from external influence, translating originally British English texts into American English for local consumption. I had no idea that apparently even more 'translation' occurs in the other direction, britifying American English.

However, it seems, much as publication houses - and local peoples - might try to hold on to the 'traditional' way the language is spoken, to the chagrin of many and the complete indifference of others -  language is too plastic fantastic, too faddish, too much the wild young thing in search for novel new ways of casting the world, to stop the infiltration of 'foreign' Englishes.

What is fascinating here is the intersection of this plastic nature of language and the investment made in 'the way it is/has always been' to IDENTITY.

I wouldn't say I try to Australianify English spoken around these parts - (except in the bosom of my own family, where it is only right that we speak with Australian accents and use the appropriate ocker) -but I DO try to at least raise awareness of the different Englishes out there to be enjoyed.

I recommend my students take up a kind of Internationally-Aware American Standard English, since at least the latter part is expected and best understood in these parts.

I often use Dictionary sites to model various alternate ways of pronouncing words, particularly the American where my mimicked version might not be adequate.

Today, for instance, we looked up CHEETAH, which for me, and for an English person would be a homophone with the way we might pronounce CHEATER, but which, of course, is quite different for an American.

CHEETAH - American
CHEETAH - English


So; Which English is it, anyway? All English is particular unto itself, from one speaker to the next, and it is the ultimate folly to insist any one is in any way 'better' or more 'correct' than another.

The important thing is to have it serve the needs of communication. That the language uttered is comprehensible to the intended audience, that the probable local input can be properly understood.


Any thoughts or stories to add? Which English you teach? Which English you speak? Your students DO speak or should TRY to speak?

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