September 22, 2015

Divided by a Common Language: Relocation Between the UK and U.S.

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Divided by a Common Language: Relocation Between the UK and U.S.

When it comes to relocating employees from the U.S. to the UK or vice versa, the last thing their Cartus consultant needs to think about is the necessity for language training. They speak the same language, don’t they?

The answer to that is a qualified yes. Although a great deal of time and energy need not be directed toward organising formal language training, there are a number of key differences—both technical and general—that relocating professionals may forget to take into account when hopping  across the Atlantic. Below are just a few of them.

‘To go and’ vs ‘to go.’ When expressing an intention, the British have a tendency to add the conjunction ‘and’ (‘I’m going to go and bake a cake’), presumably to emphasize what exactly they are going to do. Americans eliminate this nicety by just sticking the two verb forms together (‘I’m going to go bake a cake’).

Similarly, got vs gotten. American English (AmE) speakers will use ‘gotten’ whereas English speakers will revert to the simple ‘got’ form (e.g. ‘Have you gotten it? vs ‘Have you got it?’)

Dates. You’re applying for something, and at the top of the paper are these words; ‘Please return this form no later than 3.6.15.’ In the U.S. you’d need to get that form back to the requester by March 6; but in the UK, you have until 3rd June! Watch out for country-specific usages like this; they can play havoc with your scheduling.

Prepositions. Ring vs call; in BrE, one rings someone on his or her telephone number; in AmE, one calls someone at his or her telephone number.

Verbal phrases. Rained off vs rained out—British readers will relate to this one. UK events are most commonly rained off, but in America they are rained out.

Vocabulary: that good stuff everyone remembers

Biscuit vs cookie. In BrE, there is a specific type of biscuit called a cookie. In AmE, cookie is an umbrella term for all small, cakelike sweet pastries.

‘Full stop’ vs ‘period.’ British English speakers say ‘full stop’ at the end of a sentence when they are making an assertive point, whereas speakers of American English use ‘period’ (e.g., ‘You’re not going out tonight, full stop’ / ‘You’re not going out tonight, period’).

Spelling: the obvious stuff that everyone notices

U or no u? Colour/odour/splendour vs color/odor/splendor

Extra ‘-me.’ Programme vs program

S vs Z. Organisation vs organization

Who’d have thought there would be so many differences in one language between two cultures that are seemingly quite closely related? Nevertheless, whether you’re sautéing a courgette or a zucchini, or organising/organizing an event for autumn or fall, remember we’re not so different—we can understand one another with just a bit of practice!

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Elaine Carr
There are even differences here in Ireland! In ArE –vs- IrE:
ArE: I will “call” you – IrE: I will “ring” you
Closet/cabinet in ArE in Ireland you would use wardrobe/press
In BrE the “kitchen cupboard” is a “kitchen press” in IrE
Likewise an “airing cupboard” is a “hot press” in IrE.
Going to the gym in ArE they would wear “sneakers” in Ireland we wear “runners” or “trainers”.
When assisting with organising Americans “Trash” collection provider, in IrE we would use the word “rubbish”, “waste” or “bin” provider.
ArE tend to use vacuum cleaner, or just vacuum, and in the UK and Ireland we tend to use hoover.
Faucet –vs- Tap
Store –vs- shop
Drugstore –vs- chemist
The list could go on, I agree we’re not too different—we can understand one another with just a bit of practice and remembering on our part.
Judy Jensen
The two different pronunciations of aluminum! Gas versus petrol. Toilet versus loo.
loved this article. From a british background but live in the US so I truly enjoyed this!
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