A rant about spelling

I am abysmal at maths, and always have been. I can mentally calculate averages, percentages, convert from metric to imperial, and do basic calculations. But when someone says to me ‘we have received 19 hours of language training. They are 45-minute hours but we would like to have 60-minute hours. How many lessons is that?’, I have to sit down somewhere quiet and battle to get the sums right.

Languages however, come easily to me. I admit that I have an aptitude, while many other people are not that lucky. I also had a good education, speak English as a mother tongue, and do not have any learning difficulties. I am a voracious reader and language is my job and my hobby.

This means that while I correct language every day at work, I would never dream of doing it on social media. I know that not everyone out there has English as a mother tongue or access to good education. They may be using a talk-to-text app, or be dyslexic. I think most people realise this.

As a South African, I grew up speaking South African English. I trained as a teacher in Ireland, where I learned Hiberno English. In Sweden and the EU, the official form of English is British English, which I use for my work. If you come from Australia, Canada, Europe you know there is a difference between US and UK English. Different words for different things, and different spelling. I have never seen an Australian or a British person correcting an American person’s spelling. It is part of all the courses I teach.

Over the past year, I have been repeatedly corrected when I use British spelling. People call me out for writing favourite, or jewellery. And I have seen other called out for using British English as well. It has become so bad that I sometimes write ‘British spelling’ in parentheses beside the word so people will understand. On other occasions I even use the American spelling so I know I will be left alone.

What I don’t understand, however, is how so many Americans can be ignorant of the fact that there are other forms of English spelling out there. Is this not something people learn in school? Or maybe my irritation is completely hypocritical because the people below did not have the advantage of a good enough education to know that there is more than America out there?

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. Ethnocentrism is a pet peeve of mine. Education in the USA being what it is, things will stay the same unfortunately.

    My mother tongue in French, and I’ve studied English at university. But I’ve spent so much time on the US that my pronunciation is not the greatest. I would like to speak British English but my brain won’t. And I try to use British spelling… habits are hard to break.

    I don’t know what Hiberno English is and because I’m very curious, I’m going to look it up right now.

  2. As a Scrabble player living outside North America, I am familiar with both British & American spellings. Our dictionary (CSW19) has over 279,000 words from 2 to 15 letters. The North American dictionary (NWL2020) has less than 192,000 words. Why limit yourself to one version of anything?

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