What’s the difference between American and British English?

Students in many areas that aren’t familiar with English will often say that they want to learn one variety of English, i.e. ‘I only want to study British English because my last teacher was British’ or ‘I only want to study American English because I will go to study in America’. What do we say to that? Do they have a point?

The answer, of course, is that sometimes learners don’t know best. In this case, there is probably a misunderstanding that whether they learn American or British English will have an affect on their intelligibility – regardless of the fact that American and British English is almost entirely the same, and many British English accents sound similar to American accents, and vice versa. Of course there are some differences in lexis, idioms, and pronunciation (especially with the long ‘a’ in glass, for example), but on the whole, it doesn’t matter which variety you learn. Being able to communicate and pronounce words clearly and effectively is all that matters.