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Lost in Translation – American English vs British English

We have a translation list in the classroom which we add to regularly. Do you know of any others?

Isn’t it funny how two people can speak the same language yet not understand each other? This is a challenge that Miss Marsh's class has been facing this year. Both the students and the teacher speak English and 99% of the time they get on just fine, but there are periods during the day when the children will look at Miss Marsh with a blank face after an instruction is given, and vice versa when they say something to her. Why? Because words are used in different contexts or said in a different way when there’s an ocean between us.

Take the word ‘bathroom’ for example. To Miss Marsh, a bathroom is a room in a house where you can take a bath. A restroom does not exist in British English other than its literal translation of a room to rest in. Neither ring true about the facilities in a school for relieving oneself. In Britain, a child would ask to go to the ‘toilet’ or the ‘loo’. However, in restaurants and shops, you would often see signs for the WCs, which stands for Water Closet, an old English term for the room containing a flushing toilet. Which then brings you to the word ‘closet’ – not a word commonly used in Britain. They have cupboards and wardrobes, not closets! And so it goes on.

So, which one is right? Can you go to the bathroom if there’s no bath in there? Or to the restroom if you’re not going to rest? The answer is, they are ALL right. That is the joy of cultural differences!!! Language is just one aspect and Miss Marsh's class is learning from each other daily, sometimes with a little confusion but more often than not with laughter and fun.

Written by: Hannah Marsh, 4th Grade VIF Teacher
Posted: Jan 22, 2015 by Jennifer Williams

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