Spanish English month continues… In this guest blog we leave Spain for a short while and hop over to the Americas. Author (also of an earlier post) Joseph D. Persico is based in Argentina and teaches spoken English for teachers and translators, as well as EFL courses for adult learners in Buenos Aires.
Spanish and English were born in Europe, of course. Centuries later the two languages crossed the Atlantic and found a new home. 400+ years after that, many Spanish and English speakers here in the Americas still think they speak an inferior version of their own language! In Argentina people occasionally ask me if I teach British English or American English. My response is that most EFL textbooks are produced by British publishers (which I assume is because, in the recent past, the British empire was so big that the sun never set on it.) Then, while pretending I’m cool with the issue(!), I explain:
(a) why I like using British books:
Because every now and then I find differences in vocabulary between American and British English that are fun to talk about, and even I (!) can learn some new words. For example, the last British English word I learned was crèche, though my all-time favorite still has to be fortnight—or is that fortknight?
(b) why American English is authentic English, too:
Because there are really only three differences between any two dialects of a language:
(1) pronunciation (but this alone doesn’t distinguish one language from another)
(2) vocabulary (but people can usually just laugh at these)
(3) grammar, which is RARELY a problem. (You might ask why it’s rarely a problem, and the answer is simple: if the grammar of two dialects were very different, the two dialects would be two languages: like Spanish and French, or English and German.)
An interesting aside about grammar differences (which may only be only interesting if you’re an American English speaker): one of the most well-known soccer teams in Argentina (in the world?) is called Club Atlético River Plate. But, I never understood why they called it River Plate until I learned that in British English the name of a river goes before the word river in river names (very confusing, I know):
British English: the River Thames, the River Clyde, the River Plate
American English: the Thames River, the Clyde River, the Plate River
Anyways, I sometimes end my short lesson on dialects by asking the following question of the person who asked me if I teach American or British English: do you really think that your Spanish isn’t real Spanish? It should come as no surpirse to me, but, many times, the answer to that question is “yes”.
Part two of my post will explore a convincing and conclusive argument for why American English and American Spanish are the real McCoy.