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British English- from a different point of view

Posted on: 1. September 2009

This is a sequel of Moritz’s last article about his experiences with British English. I will try to tell you about my own history of speaking English.
The first time I had the opportunity to meet native speakers was when I visited my aunt and her family in West Virginia when I was seventeen. I stayed there for three weeks. Being the only european visiting this place for years, I was considered to be totally exotic. Everyone was so nice to me and therefore everyone praised my English, which was back then, I suppose, hideous. Like Moritz, I had picked up a lot of British expressions (like rubbish instead of trash, trousers instead of pants) at school which were always corrected. Today, I think the British expressions are a lot nicer, but that’s a matter of taste, of course. Anyway, I picked up quite a few American ones there, too.

Two years later, I worked in a Camphill near Belfast in Northern Ireland. For those who are not familiar with anthroposophical curative education: a Camphill is a little village where disabled people (or persons with special needs, as they are called there) live together with the people who look after them. There are workshops like the bakery and the farm, where the villagers work and where the groceries for the village are produced. Co-Workers from all over the world worked in this Camphill, so I had friends from Sweden, Zambia and New Zealand. I guess this fact also had quite an impact on my English. I adapted a slight Swedish accent among other things.
But since I also managed to make friends with some Northern Irish people I apparently also adapted a Northern Irish accent, as I was told by some Irish people I met in Heidelberg a year later. A Belfast accent is not a particularly nice accent to have. It always sounds sort of agressive, like a dog barking. Probably due to the rough climate there in both meanings.
Well, after all, the point I am trying to make is that my English was exposed to so many influences, that today, I can’t even define what exactly my English sounds like. I can only rely on what native speakers tell me. What I can say for sure, is that my English is rather British than American, but still I picked up American ways of saying things from all the American movies I watched over the years. I find it awkward to say „settee“ instead of „couch“. But that’s probably rather a German than an American influence.
That’s it for today, I guess.

Britta

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