Tuesday, August 17, 2010

British English

British English can also cause some challenges for those who are learning English in the U.S. Certain British English terms just need to be dropped for those planning to stay here.

In one class, a student had an eraser that worked in the same way as a mechanical pencil; clicking on the top of the plastic tube gave the user some more eraser to use. One of my students thought this was wonderful and asked where to get it. The first student replied that he'd bought it at the drugstore.

B: Then I will go to the drugstore today and ask to buy one of those rubbers.
Me: It's called an 'eraser' here in the U.S.
B: Yes, yes, of course. I will ask to buy that kind of rubber.
Me: No, you really need to call it an eraser here in the U.S.
B: They will understand in the drugstore when I say I want to buy a rubber.
Me: (sighing) Please step out into the hall with me for a moment.

I explained what the word "rubber" refers to in the U.S. -- and particularly if one asks for one in a drugstore! -- and watched her eyes widen to the size of dinner plates.

B: Eraser. Eraser. Eraser. Eraser?
Me: Yes, eraser.
B: (mumbling as we went back into the classroom) Eraser, eraser, eraser ...