There are many differences between British English and American English. The first and most distinctive is the pronunciation of certain consonants and vowels. The loss of the “R” is one of the most notable. This is called “Rhoticity” or “Non-Rhotic speech.
It’s when the “R” is silent or softly pronounced when spoken. This is called a “Postvocalic consonant This is referred to when a consonant falls after a vowel and before another consonant OR at a final position in a word.
Non-rhotic or the loss of the “R” goes back as far as the 15th century in British society and traveled to the new world in the 17th century. The new settlers on what we call the east coast of America today, used both varieties.
Why did the British decide to eliminate the “R” in their speech? It actually started as a way to determine the rich from the common man.
The kings and queens in England had decided that they needed a way to know who they were talking to. Was it an important person or just a common man?
As time went on and the rich became richer, many English wanted to fit in English society. An easy way to do that was to speak like the rich. The loss of the “R” was actually a type of discrimination.
By the 17th century, non-rhotic speech was becoming common by everyone.
The British government didn’t actually recognize the queens English as an official variant until the 1790’s. Prior to that time, official documents did not recognize this convoluted pronunciation.
Of course, the rich traveled to The Americas and brought several variants of the British language with them. As time went on, the language known as English, was transformed into a number of variants.
Ever wondered why New Yorkers don’t use the R? Ironically, Americans of today use a more proper variant of the original British English.
Other nuances between British and American English are well documented. American English is also known as “General American English”. This would be the way most Americans speak.
Although there are many dialects of American English, the language pronunciation is generally understood.
While British English tends to be a very rigid language, American English is considered a more flexible language.
British English is the foundation for English around the world. Many countries have adopted and transformed British English into regional and country specific variations. This is both in vocabulary and pronunciation. Word usage and spelling can also vary from country to country.
The benefit of learning both British and American English for most Ukrainians can be monumental. Most Ukrainians study English in school as their second or foreign language.
Fewer study American English usually in private language schools. All public Ukrainian schools perform all testing in British English. Young students need to know this when they begin learning American, Canadian, Australian English variants.
Since testing at public schools is completely in British English, students cannot use other variants without being criticized or fail at testing.
The good news for students who learn other forms of English including American General English, is that they have learned another variant of English.
For individuals who have the desire to be employed at a firm or organization involved with countries around the world, generally, American English is considered more understandable.
Proper English pronunciation is critical for all individuals who study the English language. The main idea is to be able to speak clearly and communicate your thoughts understandably.
I have been asked many times about the differences between American and British pronunciation. The answer is simple. For those who like British English, don’t do anything differently.
For those who speak with Americans, consider sounding the “R” just a little as opposed to not at all.
Visit Larisa English in Nikolaev Ukraine or call for more information.