English as a language, I have come to learn, is definitely interpreted and heard in a multitude of ways. I am English. I speak English but I have had to adapt quite quickly to be able to get by in the US – there are only so many times one can repeat themselves in order to be understood.
Same language but different, oh yes, there is a difference. An obvious aspect of this is accents and thus pronunciation. Examples of which are:
Herb – Eng hhur_b, US erb
Basil – Eng baz_ill, US bayzil
Parmesan – Eng par_me_zan, US parmeshaan
You know when someone doesn’t understand you when they get a slight, glazed, blank look in their eyes and will just nod and smile, sometimes just saying yes in agreement to what ever I have said. Phone conversations can be a little tricky, and if I ask Siri something on my iPhone, I have to pronounce things in an American accent, so funny. Since living in America I have adapted to speaking more slowly, to annunciate and drop any slang. I kind of sound a bit posh? My father-in-law still can’t understand me after four years! I am lucky though as American people seem to really like the British accent, I can not tell you the amount of times I hear my own words echoing back at me as people delightfully attempt to mimic the sounds.
I think people in the US think these few fundamental things about Britain. It rains all the time, we dink tea out of china tea cups, we may know the Queen (or Kate and Wills), we are either pretty proper and well spoken or sound like a chimney sweep – a London accent as depicted in the film Mary Poppins. The British are seen as only being from London and we all have really bad teeth!
Well, my teeth are pretty good, for the record 🙂 And we Brits do like our tea, we drink it all the time, tea usually comes in a mug and served with milk (unless its herbal tea) Yes, milk. I don’t think British people would understand if they ordered tea here and were to be asked, ‘hot tea’? On this subject, I don’t think American’s would understand if they were in Britain and ordering coffee, were faced with the question ‘black or white’? Nothing racial, it means with or without milk!