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Scott Vek

I was born in Philadelphia, and spent 15 years travelling in South America and now I am living in Germany.  Sudenly I find myself teaching English and helping people to embrace language learning and take risks.  One thing lead to another, and I amhelping someone translate a brochure into English.  I find that a lot of the word choices would not work for the intended audience. THe problem I have is that I have not really lived in an English speaking country for years and my memory is clouded.  I am not sure if my opinion is based on memory, or imagination at this point. A lot in the united States has changed in the passed decade and withthe rise  of the popularity of the BBC I am not sure what would communicate well.


When I left Philadelphia I was suprised that other  people only refered to the beach as the shore when they were out to sea.  Then I find out that other Americans do not use the word Pavement, but say sidewalk. They say fireflies and not Lightening bugs...

Does the average American understand the word  "Queue" to refer to a line of people?  Does any onee know the demographics of word use?  

Feb 20, 2015 9:02 PM
Comments · 24

A few points


In my opinion it sounds more natural to say "studying in college" than "studying at college".

In the case of law and medicine, you would generally just refer to it as law school or med school.

If you say university instead of college you will be understood and I won't try to correct you, it's just cumbersome for most situations in my opinion.

While I understand that college has a different meaning in some countries and therefore the word university is used instead, if you use "college" to mean "junior high"/"middle school" or "high school" you  will be misunderstood here. 

I guess that this is one of the few cases where the spoken English in Canada is closer to British English than American English. I wasn't sure in this case.

Last but not least, while I agree that "college atmosphere" often has associations with alcohol, I would argue that other things such as the music scene, campus layout, student activities, and sports and tailgating (ok, alcohol again haha) would all come to mind when I hear that phrase. If you experience college football or basketball at its finest, I think it's an experience unlike any other. I'm not saying that the fans are crazier or more passionate than soccer fans in Europe, but it's a different kind of crazy/passion. I always try to encourage Europeans visiting the US to go to a good college basketball or football game rather than an NBA game for example. 

February 23, 2015

Mike, I agree, I think it is funny that a good "college atmosphere" has more to do with the price and avalablity of beer than anything to do with learning.  I agree that it may help to look through the internet, but  there is a lot of  hidden censorship. You would be more likely to find UK posting having a UK ihttp.  I was surprised by how searches brought up different results  in Europe than they did in Peru. Most of us are not aware of how  restricted information on the interet can be.


I was hoping this was not a new thought and some one of the language enthusiast would have an incredible resource available.  If I have to do the work myself I will have to publish it and make some money, because it will be time consuming.

I guess I could get a freind  of mine to  write a program that searches the internet and catagorizes word use, or maybe I could just ask the NSA.  I am sure they have the information already!

Thank you both for your imput.




February 23, 2015

To answer your question, Scott, I wonder if simple internet searches would help? For example, one interesting usage issue that came up here recently was the noun 'scheme'. This word has the same basic meaning in the US and in the UK, but very different associations. In US English 'a scheme' tends to have negative implications, while in British English it is entirely neutral. I searched phrases such as 'government schemes', and, sure enough, all the hits were from UK sites. This confirmed what I had supposed.

Checking frequency of vocabulary appearing on newspaper sites in various English-speaking regions around the world would also give you good indication of geographical spread. 

February 22, 2015

good discussion!

i knew that the accents differ but i didn't know these differences about vocabulary.

February 20, 2015

I was an expat for several years, living in China and the UK.  So everything is both foreign and familiar to me at the same time too.  That's interesting you used pavement in Philadelphia.  I know there is a lot of regional variation in the US - much more than in Canada (except Quebec, obviously).


I wouldn't recommend saying "queue" in advertising if your target audience is North America.  I'd say lineup or line.  I'm sure there are online resources that describe regional variations in English, including vocabulary and accents. 

February 20, 2015
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Scott Vek
Language Skills
English, German
Learning Language