Though you wouldn't think it (especially if you're coming from an English speaking country), the language barrier in the US is one of those especially difficult hurdles to overcome and I'm not even talking accents either. You see it on TV all the time..............tourist, lost in some Middle Eastern country somewhere, stumbles into a local store only to ask:
"Does anyone in here speak American?"
Then the cheeky little person inside you cries out - "American isn't a language dumbass!!"
Oh yes the hell it is.
I'm not entirely sure when or why it happened but at some point in time the written language of the Americans changed drastically. While it might sound the same (aside from the accent), the differences between "American" and what we know as English, become very evident when you put pen to paper.
Now I am no historian so don't quote me on this but I've been told that sometime around the American Revolutionary War or the War of 1812 against Great Britain, that American colonists, so incensed by England's attempts to rule them, decided to drop the letter "u" from many of their words supposedly as an ultimate f*ck you to the Crown. This simple act supposedly led to the creation of an all new written form of the English language.........American.
Dubious though the origins of this story might be, it's the best that I could come up with at the moment but seriously though, this isn't a history blog and you certainly don't come here for my historical acumen (or lack thereof). Regardless of the origin, the fact of the matter is, Americans seem to hate the letter "u." Here are just a few examples of blatant "u" persecution.
- labour labor
- colour color
- parlour parlor
- behaviour behavior
- neighbour neighbor
- flavour flavor
- favourite favorite
- tyre tire
- cheque check
- centre center
Caribbean students often have a hard time at freshman level English courses at American Universities because of this problem. I've seen many a term paper receive a poor grade for spelling "errors" that were not the fault of the student.
And just in case different spellings weren't enough to mess your whole day up, let's explore some words that have completely different meanings.
- parlour corner store
- rum shop package store
- pavement= sidewalk pavement = roadway/street
- truck semi/tractor trailer
- van/pickup truck
- breadvan maxi minivan
- roti skin, doubles bara some sort of bread..............
At this point, I've been in the US for a total of seven and a half years and I still don't quite have them all figured out. Things get even hairier depending on what region you move to. People in the South (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, etc) seem to have a language that's much different from Northerners. Then you have to consider the linguistic differences between East Cost and West Coast and then...............lord this is giving me a headache.
The bottom line is, the English language as a whole is a very difficult language to master even for those of us who speak it but if you plan on moving to the US though, forget everything you know about the English language it's time to learn AMERICAN...............
Check in with me next month for Part III of my guide.