English Speaking Cultures & Cultural Differences
English has become the leading language of international communication. It is the third most widely spoken language in the world and the official language of 53 countries. The United States is an English speaking culture and so is Great Britain. This paper will explore American and British culture as they relate to the English language.
The United States is a multicultural and multilingual nation. The population is ethnically and racially diverse. Americans have many different traditions and values and the culture has been influenced heavily by European immigrants and the descendants of slaves from the African continent. English is not the official language, but people who do not speak it usually deal with limited employment opportunities. Learning English opens doors and allows people to become part of main stream society. The government provides services in many languages to accommodate newcomers. Details about certain aspects of English-speaking American Culture are below.
American (US) Culture
- Most Americans are friendly and informal. It is common for people address others who they know well by a first name only.
- It is important to be polite in most social situations. People commonly please and thank you when they interact with each other.
- Most Americans dress casually outside of work. Jeans and sweatshirts are very popular. Business casual attire is acceptable in most offices.
- The formality of meals at private homes varies, so it is a good idea to follow the lead of the host
- Americans use a lot of slang and idiomatic expressions. Sometimes it is difficult for non-native speakers to learn the expressions, but after hearing them frequently they will learn what they mean.
United Kingdom (UK) Culture
Four countries make up the United Kingdom. They are England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The English language is not governed by a formal code. People from around the world go to England to learn English, live and work. English people speak Modern English that evolved from Old English. Details about the culture and traditions are below.
- British people are reserved, but friendly and helpful to foreigners. It is okay to address people there by their first name after you get to know them and they invite you to do so. The British observe formalities and protocols in business and punctuality is of paramount importance.
- Many English people enjoy entertaining in their homes. They expect guests to arrive 10-20 minutes after the start time. Generally dinner conversation is not about work.
- The residents of larger cities like London dress more formally than the residents of the countryside. Men and women love to wear, jeans, wools and tweeds to casual gatherings.
English usage varies between cultures. The people of England have spoken it for over 1,000 years. American English, however, has only a 300 year history. It evolved from Old English and has been influenced by immigration, slavery and even wars. Most ESL/EFL programs teach American and British English. The three main differences are pronunciation, vocabulary and spelling. British Commonwealth countries where the residents are not native English speakers frequently closely follow British English. The countries which have been historically influenced by the United States follow American English usage.