In Europe English as a Foreign Language (ESL) students for obvious reasons are taught British, or the Queen’s (formerly the King’s), English. Some schools will prepare young people for their first visit to the wonderful land of Freedom Fries, unnaturally sized Apples and home to countless of the world’s smallest and largest everything, but that is more of an exception than a rule.
However, a great many exchange students are sent over the Atlantic with a painfully underdeveloped vocabulary. This is no fault of their own, so for now we will just blame the system, but what’s the problem you may ask? Well, situations like the following are all too common.
A foreign exchange student from Europe (not the UK or Ireland) comes to the United States. She lands at JFK International Airport to get picked up by her host family, who have been kind enough to take her in for her semester of High School. Well out of the baggage claim and past customs she meets her new family for the first time. First impressions are everything, or so I am told. After getting introductions out of the way the father of the family asks, “Would you like to use the restroom before we leave”? Using her very basic English to decipher the strange language being used she happily answers “No, I can do that in the car”!
Like I said, first impressions, right?
So why do we not focus just a little bit more on teaching ESL students the respective differences between American and British English?
The short answer is: it’s way too much fun!