When I first told my friends and family that I wanted to spend a year abroad in England, many of them tried to reassure me by saying, “Well, at least they don’t speak a different language!” Little did they know that sometimes it feels as though it actually is a different language. There is a surprising number of words that I’ve heard and have had to ask what they mean or how they should be used in regular conversation. Usually I forget to use them and end up resorting to the American version… but it’s the thought that counts, right?
Here are some British vs. American English comparisons that have taken some getting used to:
“Porridge” vs. “Oatmeal”
Before coming to England I had this vague idea in my head that porridge was a different kind of oatmeal. I stand corrected: they’re literally the same thing. Now I just feel like Goldilocks and the three bears when I eat breakfast every morning.
“Are you alright?” vs. “How are you?”
This one really throws me off. How do you respond to this? Am I supposed to say “Yes, are you alright?” Usually I just end up smiling and then mumbling something incoherent before hurriedly asking them how they are. Really, really smooth.
“Football” vs. “Soccer”
This example encompasses countless differences regarding sports. Here they say “boots” instead of “cleats,” “pitch” instead of “field,” “match” instead of “game”…. the list goes on and on!
“Timetable” vs. “Schedule”
Every time someone says “timetable” my mind immediately thinks of Hermione’s Time-Turner in Harry Potter. Maybe they really are wizards here…
“Tutor” vs. “Professor”
Every week I attend tutorials led by my tutor, which is just a different word for professor. This brings up an interesting question: What do I call them? It’s normal back home to say “Professor Snape” but I don’t think it would be right to say “Tutor Snape”…. so maybe “Dr. Snape” is better?
“Bop” vs. “Dance”
When I first learned that there would be a bop at the end of Fresher’s Week visions of High School Musical’s “Bop to the Top” raced through my mind. It turns out that a bop is actually just a school dance, though different from back home in that they serve alcohol. They are also themed, which makes it even more hilarious and cheesy.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little foray into the linguistic challenges I’ve encountered thus far! It makes me grateful that I’m not studying somewhere with a completely different language. Adjusting to a new culture is difficult enough, but an entirely different language adds a huge wrinkle into the mess!
Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!
What other differences have you encountered between the same language spoken in different countries or areas of the world? Have you had any experiences like this? Which one of these differences surprises you most? Let me know in the comments section below!