Language Matters: Separated by a Common Language

Britain and America are both English-speaking countries, but a Brit abroad in the US (and vice versa) wouldn’t necessarily know it!

Overcoming the language barrier between these two English-speaking countries is a matter of understanding how the meaning of what you say is affected by each country’s cultural context.

It’s not just differences in what things are called, although that can also be confusing.

Ex. An American might say ‘nice pants’ to a friend or coworker, but in the UK ‘pants’ means underwear! (A Brit would say ‘nice trousers’)

How we speak is affected by our country’s culture. In the UK, directness can be considered rude. Asking “are there any other options to consider” is an indirect way of saying “I don’t like this idea.” British people recognize this, but someone from the US would understand it to mean only that a decision hasn’t been made yet.

On the other side of things, Americans value straight-forward communication, and sometimes come off as bossy as a result.

To communicate effectively, it’s necessary to understand not just what you are saying, but how it will be understood by your audience. Mastering this will ensure that the message you intend to send will be the one received!

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