Have you ever wondered which English accent you should learn?

It’s one of those questions that makes English learners think. Most of the time, it’s not always important. Other times, the way you learn to speak English can go a long way in determining who can understand you.

As any teacher will tell you, learning a language is so much more than memorizing vocabulary words and grammar rules. Language learners also need to consider culture if they really want to feel comfortable talking to native speakers.

But what does that mean for English language learners? More importantly, how different is the English spoken in the UK compared to the United States or Australia?

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Why does it sound different?

You probably already know that it’s important to pronounce words correctly if you want others to understand what you’re saying.

On the other hand, even native speakers have a variety of accents that make it hard for them to understand each other. This is even more true for native English speakers from different countries.

When it comes to American, British, and Australian accents, there are a few differences that are easy to spot.

For instance, most American English accents pronounce ‘r’ sounds more clearly while most Australian and British accents drop the ‘r’ sound.

You’ll also notice that all three accents emphasize vowels differently. For example, the ‘o’ sound in bottle is pronounced as “aah” in American English, “awe” in British English, and “aaw” in Australian English.

Happy young business people talking in front of office window, smiling, friendship.

Careful where you say ‘thongs’

Strong accents in any language can make things difficult.

But what really causes problems is differences in vocabulary and slang words. Put a few different accents together and mix in lots of unfamiliar slang words and chances are you’ll have a bunch of Americans, Brits, and Aussies who just can’t understand each other.

Here are just a few fun vocabulary differences:

American: Afternoon

British: Afternoon

Australian: Arvo

 

American: Gas station

British: Petrol station

Australian: Servo

 

American: Candy

British: Sweets /sweeties 

Australian: Lollies

 

American: Friend

British: Mate / pal

Australian: Mate

 

American: Flip flops

British: Flip flops

Australian: Thongs

Be careful not to mix some of these up. For instance, in the U.S., the word “thongs” would be used to describe underwear, or G-strings, like those found in a lingerie store.

How do you spell that?

Differences in spelling can also cause problems between American, British, and Australian English speakers. Though, in this case, American English is the only odd one.

Australian and British English words are usually spelled the same, but American English has quite a few differences. For example:

  • American English doesn’t have a ‘u’ in words like “colour”. Instead, it’s spelled “color”.
  • Sometimes, ‘z’ replaces the ‘s’ in American English. You’ll see this in words like “realize” and “organize”.
  • ‘R’ and ‘e’ at the end of words like “centre” and “theatre” are switched in American English to “center” and “theater”.
  • American English only used one ‘l’ in words like “traveled” and “traveling”.

When it comes to pronunciation, specific vocabulary words, and spelling, always think about where you’ll be using your English skills. As long as others can understand you and you can understand them, you won’t have a problem.

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