Written by guest blogger Heidi Douglas
English is the third most spoken language in the world, behind Chinese and Spanish, and not just in the countries where English is the main language. There are also many countries where English is considered an official language, either in education, business or government offices. As the business world is increasingly using English as its tool for communication, and many higher education institutions are developing courses in English to appeal to an international community, there has been an increase in the want, and need, to learn English as a second language (ESL). However, one question seems to appear: which English do you learn? British, American, Australian, a different type of English or a mixture of all… or does it not make a difference?
In our highly technological world, and with ever increasing access to the internet, language students have access to a multitude of online resources from lessons and activities as well as online TV, radio, films and internet shows. This mixture of resources generally represents a complete variety of English, from different countries and cultures, with many different accents and vocabulary, although learners may not necessarily be aware of the slight differences between the different forms of English.
In many places there seems to be a trend towards learning British English, as this is seen as the most traditional, or some would say (perhaps controversially) the purest form of English. Many ESL textbooks are designed using British English, with occasional pieces of information about differences in spelling or context in American English. However, this seems to be contradictory to the idea that learning a language is closely linked to learning a culture, so if you are studying in Australia, or perhaps studying with the intention of travelling, working or studying in Australia, would it not be more beneficial and authentic to learn Australian English? Or is it the fact that the basics of learning English are the same for all forms of English, and it is the informal aspects of the language that change between the different forms of English, and these become apparent to the advanced learner?
One thing that everyone can agree on – translators, teachers and learners – is that every version of English has its own uniqueness and idiosyncrasies, which enhance the richness of language and the understanding of certain cultures and countries.