Trainers or sneakers, biscuits or cookies? – British and American English assistants entertain BRG students (Wahlpflichtgruppe “Englisch”)

Does an Englishman know that “spilling the beans” has nothing to do with his or her much-loved English breakfast? Or does an American know what a “courgette” is?

What’s the American word for a “dummy” (Schnuller)? And why on earth do British people end some instructions given to other people with the words “Bob’s your uncle”?

Well, our students of “Englisch – freie Wahl” (7. Klasse) are presently working on these questions as our current topic “World English(es)” deals with the many varieties of English that are spread throughout the world.
Usually, the distinction between “British English” and “American English” interests English language learners the most – after all, one can find countless differences in spelling (Rechtschreibung), pronunciation (Aussprache), vocabulary (Wortwahl) and even grammar (Grammatik).

To find out more about these – sometimes funny, sometimes confusing – differences between the two most famous forms of English, we invited a special guest to class this week. Jack, a friend of our dear American language assistant Juliana – and himself language assistant at the HTL Waidhofen – joined us for a double period of “British vs. American English”. So, there we were: one witty Brit, one charming American, one Austrian English teacher and seven talented English learners in one room. One can imagine that this lesson was going to be full of listening, laughing and learning.

Jack and Juliana did a great job actively showing the major and minor differences of British and American English to our English-loving students. They articulated many words and, right after saying them, explained the differences, for example when it comes to stressing the syllables or letters of a word.
They also performed a little “German competition” by reading out loud a passage of J. K. Rowlings “Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen” and let our students analyse their use of German and whether they think that Jack’s and Juliana’s mother tongue(s) – British and American English – can be “heard” when speaking German.

As you can imagine, pronouncing the same words differently caused some very funny moments and…let’s say… ‘heated’ discussions as to which version of a word is the ‘better’ one. Who would have thought that two speakers of the same (?) language would fight about it in the end? 😉 Joking aside, our two language assistants managed to entertain our students, make them laugh and at the same time provoke some important ‘AHA moments’ among them.

Lessons like this show us how extremely valuable our language assistants are to our language learning students. Jack and Juliana – thanks again! Your effort was and is much appreciated!


Some examples – differences between British and American English:
BE: an adult                                                     AE: an adult
BE: privacy (/ˈprɪv.ə.si/)                                 AE: privacy (/ˈpraɪ.və.si/)
BE: to analyse                                                 AE: to analyze
BE: holiday, nappy, chips                                AE: vacation, diaper, fries
BE: Bob’s your uncle!                                      AE: Easy as pie!