One of the most common questions English learner ask is: what are the main differences between Australian English, American English, and British English?If you're just beginning to learn English, and don't plan to live or work in these countries, you may not know where to start.
We should mention from the start that there are stark differences that exist. This includes different accents, slang terms, and more. With that said, English from Australia, US, and Britain all share common roots that have spread over time.
This is where a bit of history comes in handy. Feel free to skip to the next section if you're not interested.
How English Was Formed
English as a language was created by the British. It's a West-Germanic language that was created near the 5th to 7th century, according to Wikipedia. During this time, people were known to be speaking Old English which sounded quite different from how we speak today. As time passed, English became modernized and borrowed from Latin, Ancient Greek, and other European languages like French and German.
From there, English began to spread due to the invasions of Britain during the wars. After the colonialization of the British began to die down, English remained as the official language for many of these independent countries.
What Type of English Should You Learn?
Now that we've dug into the history of English, you're probably still wondering: what type of English you should learn. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:
1. What's your main purpose of learning English? - This is probably the most important question you should ask. Why are you learning English? You may have a few diferent answers here but think about what your main reason is.
2. Do you plan to live or work in any of these countries? - Another important question is your current or future plans. If you're going to be working in Los Angeles or have aspirations to live in the US, then you're better off learning American English.
3. What type of English are you already familiar with? - Have you already learned English in the past? Likely so. If this is the case, you'll find it easiest to continue learning the same type of English you're familiar with.
Australian English vs American English vs British English
Now let's go through the main differences between these English dialects, so you can make a better decision!
The words used by these different English dialects is one of the first things you may notice. Some of these are so blatanly different that you may run the risk of offending someone, so make sure you keep these in mind.
- Slippers (American); Thongs (Australian); Flip-flops (British) - You can only imagine how confused you could be by asking for thongs at a department store.
- Fries (American/Australian); Chips (British) - In some situations, chips could also mean the currency used for poker games.
- Apartment (American); Flat (Australian/British)
- Bathroom/Restoom (American/Australian); Toilet/Loo (British)
- Drugstore (American); Chemist/Pharmacy (Australian/British)
Another one is how words are spelt. If you're writing to someone or an important research paper, depending on who you're writing it for, you'll need to change your spelling structure.
- -or vs -our
- Color (American); Colour (Australian/British)
- Behavior (American); Behaviour (Australian/British)
- -ter vs -tre
- Theater (American); Theatre (Australian/British)
- Center (American); Centre (Australian/British)
- -led vs -lled
- Traveled (American); Travelled (Australian/British)
- Modeled (American); Modelled (Australian/British)
- -ling vs -lling
- Traveling (American); Travelling (Australian/British)
- Modeling (American); Modelling (Australian/British)
Whether you're with friends or co-workers, you'll use slang terms that are likely local to where you live. If you're American, and you're speaking with a British or Australian person, they may have no idea what you're talking about. Learning slang words respective to these different countries will allow you to better relate to people you just met.
Keep in mind that these are not 100% restrictive to these countries. British people could certainly say drunk, instead of pissed, and vice versa.
- Drunk (American); Smashed (Australian); Pissed (British)
- Drinks (American); Bevvies (Australian); Drinks (British)
- Want to go for drinks? (American/Australian); Fancy a drink? (British)
- Buddy (American); Mate (Australian/British)
- Sex (American/British); Shag (Australian)
- Exhausted (American); Buggered (Australian); Knacked (British)
- Goof ball (American); Cheeky (British)
- Sketchy (American); Dodgy (Australian/British)
The sounds of how one talks is another noticeable difference. Each country will say that the other has a strong accent, and technically they're right.
For Americans, an Australian person may be hard to understand because of how each decides to pronounce their r's. English speakers from America will pronounce the 'r' whenever it occurs. However, English speakers from Australia will only pronounce it when there's a vowel before it, such as 'run' or 'ratings.' The next time you hear an Australian say 'color/colour', it'll likely sound like they're saying 'culla'. This is also the case of British English, although not as exaggerated as Australians.
Another difference is the pronunciation of vowels like 'a'. Most Americans will pronounce the 'ae' in words like 'pass', where as the British and Australians pronounce their 'a' in words like 'father'. Sometimes they may use 'ae' in words like 'demand', but Americans will use it for all words.
Grammar wise, these 3 countries share very similar traits. However, there are ones you may notice, like:
- Learned (American); Learnt (Australian/British)
- Fogotten (American); Forgot (Australian/British)
- Team has scored (American/Australian); Team have scored (British) (collective nouns)
- What's up?
- How's it going?
- Hey there
- G'day mate
- What's the goss?
- Hey love
- Morning dear
- *Air kisses*
- How's it hangin'?
Last but not least, in the digitalized world we live in, how we type is essential for efficient communication.
The good news is, Australians use the same keyboard format as Americans do so you won't have to relearn anything from scratch. However there are a few differences when using British keyboards on your computer or phone. Two major ones you'll notice are that the punctuation symbols are located in different places, and the British keyboard will have the Euro and British Pounds currency symbols.
Hope you enjoyed learning about these 7 key differences between Australian English vs American English vs British English. Were there any ones that stood out for you that you could apply to your English lessons?
Let us know and share these insights with a friend who's also learning English with you!