British Or American English: Does It Matter?

And don’t think I’m saying these are the only two: what about Canadian, Australia, New Zealand (does everyone agree on Kiwi?), South African, Irish and other Englishes?

I have to laugh a little when teachers maintain that one variant is favored over another when selecting candidates for the average job, or give any real credence to the idea that you “teach” one or the other.

It of course depends on your classes, but I’d generalize that maybe 90% of the time, the version you speak makes next to no difference. You need to be understandable and you need to figure out what students need to know and ensure you work on that…but the ability to do these is hardly tied to the variant of English you speak.

A student or two may think or say they prefer one “kind of” speaker over another, but while they may perceive some advantage to sounding ___, in my experience the needs of most students tend to be more basic and immediate than dialect perfection. My impression is also that even after some time with a teacher or chain of teachers from a certain country, students still tend not to really sound “like that”. And I don’t think students can always tell where a teacher comes from either.

There are also just so many dialects within each “kind of” English (various accents within the UK, etc.) – and so many non-native speakers students will communicate with – that I find it silly to assume there is exactly one way of saying something which students can learn and regularly duplicate exactly. Students would do well to be able to communicate with people who use a variety of accents.

In normal speech, I obviously notice a difference among native speakers, and in fact find it much easier to speak with English language learners at all levels than to keep up with a fast-paced conversation between two Brits. But I’m an American in Europe, where those who say one variant is favored say it is British English here, and in my experience it just doesn’t seem to matter that much.