Brits and Americans: Do we really speak the same language?

Living overseas and learning a new language has made me think more about my own native language (English) and its range of dialects and accents. I have several American friends here in Amman and although technically we speak the same language, I am always amused by the different words and phrases we use to express the same thing. Trying to copy each other’s accents is also a constant source of entertainment! These are some of the different words that come up frequently:

British                                             American

Car boot                                            Car trunk

Aubergine                                         Eggplant

Coriander                                          Cilantro

Pavement                         online casinos                  Sidewalk

Queue                                                Line

Biscuit             casino online                                    Cookie

Chips                                                 Fries

Flat                                                     Apartment

Jam                                                    Jelly

Jumper                                              Sweater

Cashpoint                                         ATM

Lift                                                       Elevator

Washing up                                      Doing the dishes

Film                                                    Movie

When I go back to the UK for a holiday it always seems strange initially that everyone has the same accent and vocabulary as me! As a global language English comes in many forms. I think its very flexibility makes it a popular language to learn and the more people who learn it the more accents and vocabulary develop. It can be a little disconcerting when you think you are speaking the same language as someone but your accents/ dialects make it difficult for you to understand each other. However, the diversity and dynamism of language is what makes it so interesting!

Dialects are often part of a language that is easier to pick up from native speakers in everyday situations, rather than through formal studying. Having studied German and Arabic, both languages with multiple dialects, the most colloquial vocabulary I have picked up has been through speaking to friends. Learning the idiomatic phrases in a language gives you a deeper understanding of culture and also makes your spoken language more authentic.

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