I want to know your opinion about something. Recently I started teaching English to very small children (7-8 years) here in Portugal. They've been learning the numbers from 0 to 20 and next week I'll start with the colors. And then I thought: should I teach them to say "favourite colour" our "favorite color" instead? You see, here in Portugal the handbooks have always been written in British English. But the phonetics of this variant is harder to understand than the American one (at least for us, Portuguese), the average Portuguese person will hear more frequently the American variant than the British one (due to TV series and movies) and, of course, the American variant is more spoken worldwide. So these are the arguments.
Now which English variant do you think I should choose?
Thanks in advance. (Any correction of mistakes is welcomed)
I'm an American who happens to speak German fluently too (one of the few ones) but that's neither here nor there. Just to address what Sid1995 said, I've never heard of learning British English first then American English second. They're both the same language. That's like saying I first learned German then Austrian. Excuse me? I've never heard of a British English course and a separate American English course. I guess it's possible but it seems very strange to me. The difference are mostly in pronounciation with a few word spellings that are slightly different (color versus colour). And they've got a few idioms we don't have (but understand) and vice versa. A Brit has no problem understanding an America, nor do Americans have trouble understanding the Brits. The only difference is Americans think the Brits sound so lovely when they speak and the British think Americans sound awful. Just be aware of that. Non- native speakers of English, almost without exception, have an overlying accent that colors their speech pattern as it is such that they neither sound British nor American, so it really, at the end of the day, hardly matters.I've never heard a non-native speaker of English have either an American or a British accent because their native language just bleeds over into and colors their English relatively strongly.
But to answer Miriam's question, the difference is so small there's no reason you can't teach both. It would make the class more fun and the students could decide which variety of the language they like the best. But when they achieve fluency their not likely to sound either British or American when they speak English, so what difference does it make?
Noah Webster compiled the first U.S. dictionaries, and he phoneticized and simplified the spelling of a handful words. He removed the "u" from words like "colour," the double letters in words like "traveller," and changing -re to -er in words like "centre" and "center," and changed "plough" to "plow." But he didn't go very far. (He wanted to go farther but other suggestions of his, like "tung" for "tongue," were never accepted).
Speaking as a U.S. native speaker, I don't think U.S. spelling is really any easier. There are only a handful of words with simpler spelling.
U.S. native speakers still need to cope with "bear" and "bare," "receive" and "believe," a silent "w" in "sword," a silent "k" in "knight" and "knife" and "knowledge," "straight" and "strait," and a host of "spelling demons" like "separate," "parallel," "harass," "necessary," "cemetery," and... the list literally goes on and on.
In my opinion, Webster made our spelling different without making it better.
If British English is the standard English taught in Portugal, I would stick with British English. You might mention, even to eight-year-olds, that there are differences between British and U.S. English.
Why do you have the impression that British people dislike American accents Steven? I would say that is a gross overgeneralisation based on well, nothing, really. We certainly don't tend to gush over an American accent the way some Americans do with Brits, but to say we think they sound 'awful?'
I suspect you've met a couple of of British people who had that opinion and extrapolated. Otherwise I don't see any basis for that claim. Myself, I don't really care either way about American accents, you hear them so often in the UK media that there's no novelty value at all to them. I think that's a typical position to take. That's not the same at all as thinking that they sound bad in some way.
Yeah, Sid, I didn't have much trouble speaking with people in Holland, it was just driving around the countryside that was hard. Plus I had a German rental car with WI license plates (Wiesbaden) and the older Dutch aren't that crazy about Germans. So I got honked at a lot for some reason.
All the road signs and signs on the buildings in Dutch left me not knowing where I was. I did learn the "UIT" on the freeway was Ausfahrt but that was about it. Some of the Dutch didn't speak German, just English, which surprised me. So if you know both, you can get around okay over there.
I studied contrastive German-English linguistics when I was younger and learned how the mouth and vocal cords make different sounds in German and English and how there are totally different sounds in both languages. Few people make that much of a study of it, but I did and was able to overcome an accent when speaking German. Native speakers have told me I don't have an accent in German. But they say it's impossible for them to identify where in Germany the accent comes from. They say it sounds Northern, but since I used to work with so many people from Berlin when I lived in Braunschweig, a lot of Berlinerisch got picked up and mixed up in with it too. So it's kind of unique. I even had a lady in Mainz ask me curiously what part of Germany I was from because the accent was unique. But, I'm happy with it. I can hear Americans speaking German and I can really hear their accent. Sure glad I don't speak like them:)