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Your child probably already uses one type of English, depending on what they’re learning at school. That’s perfectly OK. There’s no right or wrong type of English. We accept different varieties of English in our exams.
Our Listening tests include a variety of accents. So encourage your child to practise reading and listening to lots of different types of English.
In Cambridge English Speaking tests, learners don’t need to have an English accent. They simply need to communicate in a clear and effective way. This involves:
The English language has one of the largest vocabularies of any language. For example, look up the word ‘big’ in an English thesaurus. You’ll find there are over 50 other words which also mean ‘big’!
The English language has over 1 million words. But the average English speaker only tends to actively use around 20,000 words. So which words should your child learn?
Our research project, English Profile, finds the English vocabulary that speakers tend to use at each level of language learning. We then produce free vocabulary lists, so that your child can learn the most useful English words.
Download our free Pre A1 Starters, A1 Movers and A2 Flyers Word List Picture Books.
Download our free vocabulary lists for A2 Key for Schools and B1 Preliminary for Schools.
The Cambridge dictionary gives your child definitions from both the British and American English dictionaries. Your child can also use it to:
English is a difficult language to spell correctly. There are a large number of exceptions to the rules. In addition, there are lots of differences between British and American spellings. For example, colour/color, centre/center, organise/organize, dialogue/dialog.
In Cambridge English Writing tests, British or American spelling can be used. They can also be used together – in the way that Australian and New Zealanders will use British spellings for some words and American spellings for other words. However, once your child spells a word one way, they must continue to spell the word that way for the rest of the test.
Learners often want to study ‘standard English’. But it doesn’t really exist. In countries such as the UK and Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, there are over 100 different regional and local varieties of English.
Around the world, people use different spellings, vocabulary and expressions. Here’s an example:
In addition, the majority of people who use English now come from other countries around the world (over 1 billion people!). English speakers are used to hearing lots of different accents and types of English – it’s a really important part of learning the language.
Furthermore, English is changing all the time. Most people don’t talk in the same way as their great-great-grandparents did. How you speak and express yourself is a personal choice, which reflects your personality, characteristics and the ‘identity’ you want to create.
Although people still talk about different types of English, it is interesting to notice how close they are to each other nowadays. With global communication – the internet, music, cinema and television – the different types of English will continue to influence each other.
There are some words that are still exclusively British or American, even though people from both countries understand them. For example:
A few words have different meanings across the two varieties of English. For example:
Phrasal verbs (verbs with two or more words like take off or live up to) are another area of difference. There are slightly fewer of them in the American English Vocabulary Profile. For example:
Overall, though, our research shows that British and American English are actually very similar. The 10 most common words (the, of, to, and, a, in, that, is, for and I) are the same in both countries.
Looking at the 5,000 most common words in the UK, the vast majority of these words are also in the USA’s top 5,000. Furthermore, most of the differences are easy to explain. For example, it’s not surprising that ‘pounds’ is more common in British English, while ‘dollars’ is used more in the USA.