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American and British English Business Terms in the English Language Course for Students of the International Economics Department

L.V. Vinnikova

Источник статьи: Вісник ЛНУ імені Тараса Шевченка № 16 (179), 2009. Cc. 21-30.


This article deals with basic differences are exposed in a pronunciation and use of international terms in accordance with the American and British variants of English, and their place in the study of course of the business English language for the students of speciality „International economy”.

В статье раскрыты основные отличия в произношении и использовании международных терминов в соответствии с американским и британским вариантами английского языка, и их место в изучении курса деловой английской речи для студентов специальности „Международная экономика”.

English is not only one of 5,000 languages in the world, the national or official language of some states, which represent different cultures, but it is also the major international language for communication in such areas as science, technology, business and mass entertainment. English is one of the official languages of the United Nations Organisation and other political organisations. It is used in many countries, and there are many different kinds of English in different parts of the world. Some scientists consider standard English to be divided into American English and British English. English is spoken in many countries of Asia: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. In Africa it is spoken in Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, and many other countries. People in these countries speak English as their second language with the exception of South Africa, which uses it as its first. English is an official language in many of them and is taught in schools and colleges. There are two main families of Standard English, the American and the British. American English is spoken in the USA and in Canada. British English is spoken in the West Indies, Britain, Australasia, and Africa.

However, many other parts of the world also use English. In India English is an official language still and there is a special kind of Indian English. In several African countries, such as Nigeria and Ghana, English is spoken in schools and colleges. In many sciences English is the language of communication. It is the language of literature, education, modern music and international tourism.

Ukraine is integrating into the world community and the problem of learning English for the purpose of communication is especially urgent today. Products such as bread, meat, clothing, refrigerators, and houses are produced and sold in virtually every country of the world today from Western Europe to North America. The production methods and resources used to make these products are often very similar in different countries, but the terms that reflect the production and the business can be different, depending on the American and English business terms.

In most countries where English is taught as a foreign language, the teaching is oriented towards American English or British English. But we should emphasize that educated American English is neither better nor worse than its British equivalent.

When visitors (also students through university exchange programs) first come to the USA, they become acquainted with the American way of life, American culture, and, of course, with American language. The development of American English is closely connected with the history of the country. Besides the various Native American cultures, American English reflects the other non-English cultures which the colonists and frontiersmen met in their conquest of the continent.

American English contains some features which have disappeared in British English, but some of them can be traced in dialects. The language barrier is getting more attention lately, perhaps because the language problem is in fashion everywhere. English in the USA differs considerably from British English. Pronunciation is the most striking difference, but there are also a number of differences in vocabulary and spelling as well as slight differences in grammar. On the whole, British people are exposed to a lot of American English on TV, in films and so on, and so they will usually understand most American vocabulary. At present many new words and phrases from American books and films have found their way into British English. The American spelling usually tries to correspond more closely to pronunciation. Here are some words and phrases which can cause confusion when used by Brits and Americans talking together because they mean something different in each 'language': a bill a (bank) note for a check (in a cafe); the first floor - the ground floor the second floor; purse - a wallet; subway – an underground; railway -an underpass.

The aim of this article is to describe the corse of Business English taught for students of the International Economics Department. The difference in using and pronouncing international terms is most represented in Business English course, which is taught to students The course includes 5 years (9 semesters). To facilitate the academic process students are grouped in the first year according to their language performance and practical level of English. The main objective of the course is to aim students to acquire and develop their skills in carrying out negotiations, analyzing market research data, teamwork performance, business projects and so forth. Usually the Business English course is designated to have a considerable emphasis on writing skills. It's essential for students while reading scientific articles in journals, newspapers, booklets, and books to find important information that they wish to share. They must know how to use quotations and do summaries, which are important tools in academic writing and are the course requirements.

Another task of the Business English course for students of International Economics department is to have the teaching purposes be related to the demands of the modern world and the problems faced by society and graduates in future. Learning is not just a mental process; it is the process of negotiation between individuals and society. Society sets the target and the individuals must do their best to get as close to that target situation as possible. If we do not take into account the requirements and needs of Ukrainian society by equating training with employment, the graduates will just increase the number of unemployed youth. Many of the graduates are being asked to use their knowledge of English for much wider purposes, for instance they work in embassies, oil and mining companies, translate documents, act as interpreters or tourist guides, serve as clerks and administrators, analysts, that's why their command of English is essential for many wider responsibilities in business, economics and administration.

The current programs are designed to provide students of International Economics department with the key skills, tools and terminology to operate in an international economic environment. Whether they need assistance with writing economic reports in English or need to expand their knowledge of economic language, knowing the difference in business terms abroad will really assist them.

The most often used American and British English business terms can be shown to the students in the beginning of the course in the following box:

Differences in American and English business terms


Questions to be considered and the main part of the paper

The focus of the English Course for International Economy students is on the use and development of English language skills in an economic context, which will include lectures, presentations, discussions, problem solving, and writing on technical topics. The main economic English topics typically include:

· Macroeconomics

· Economic methodology

· The economizing problem

· Supply and demand

· National income accounting

· Income determination

· Inflation

· Money

The aim of the presented topics is to expose the students to the reading and listening activities, to bring their own experiences and feelings to the fore in order to achieve accurate and confident language use. In the course a teacher is to provide balanced practice in all four language skills of reading, listening, writing and speaking by engaging students both as language learners and as people with experiences and feelings of their own. It can be achieved through learning process, where students take part in the realistic activities, are asked to contribute their own experiences and feelings, encouraged to work closely with peers, to assume certain responsibility for their own learning. Listening activity is an essential part of the course. A speaking activity related to either a role play or a discussion is normally followed by a writing activity, focused on some aspect of the writing skills.

The students’ attention can be drawn by the information about the origin of the words they most often come across in the textbook or use in their speech at the lesson. It should be mentioned that the changes in the American variety of English can be found in pronunciation (American spelling is usually simpler), grammar, and structure as well, but they are especially evident in the vocabulary. The main differences can be presented as follows:

1) in derivatives and inflected forms of the -our/or words, in British usage the u is kept before English suffixes that are freely attachable to English words (neighbourhood, humourless, savoury) and suffixes of Greek or Latin origin that have been naturalized (favourite, honourable, behaviourism). In American usage, derivatives and inflected forms are built by simply adding the suffix in all environments (favorite, savory, etc.) since the u is absent to begin with. Commonwealth countries normally follow British usage. In Canada -or endings are not uncommon, particularly in the Prairie Provinces, though they are rarer in Eastern Canada. In Australia, -or terminations enjoyed some use in the 19th century, and now are sporadically found in some regions, usually in local and regional newspapers, though -our is almost universal. The name of the Australian Labor Party, founded in 1891, is a remnant of this trend. In British usage, some words of French, Latin, or Greek origin end with a consonant followed by -re, with the -re unstressed and pronounced /ə(ɹ)/. Most of these words have the ending -er in the US. The difference is most common for words ending -bre or -tre: British spellings theatre, goitre, litre, lustre, mitre, nitre, reconnoitre, saltpetre, spectre, centre, titre; calibre, fibre, sabre, and sombre all have -er in American spelling. The ending -cre, as in acre, lucre, massacre, mediocre, is preserved in American English, to indicate the c is pronounced /k/ rather than /s/. The e preceding the r is retained in US derived forms of nouns and verbs, for example, fibers, reconnoitered, centering, which are, naturally, fibres, reconnoitred and centring respectively in British usage. It is dropped for other inflections, for example, central, fibrous, spectral. However such dropping cannot be regarded as proof of an -re British spelling: for example, entry derives from enter, which has not been spelled entre for centuries. The difference relates only to root words; -er rather than -re is universal as a suffix for agentive (reader, winner) and comparative (louder, nicer) forms. One consequence is the British distinction of meter for a measuring instrument from metre for the unit of measurement. However, while poetic metre is often -re, pentameter, hexameter, etc. are always -er. Many other words have -er in British English. These include Germanic words like anger, mother, timber, water, and Romance words like danger, quarter, river. Some -er words, like many -re words, have a cognate in Modern French spelled with -re: among these are chapter, December, diameter, disaster, enter, letter, member, minister, monster, number, oyster, powder, proper, sober, tender, filter, parameter;

2) nouns ending in -ce with -se verb forms: American English and British English both retain the noun/verb distinction in advice / advise and device / devise, but American English has abandoned the distinction with licence / license and practice / practise (where the two words in each pair are homophones) that British spelling retains. American English uses practice and license for both meanings. Also, American English has kept the Anglo-French spelling for defense and offense, which are usually defence and offence in British English; similarly there are the American pretense and British pretence; but derivatives such as defensive, offensive, and pretension are always thus spelled in both systems. The spellings connexion, inflexion, deflexion, reflexion are now somewhat rare in everyday British usage, but are not used at all in the US: the more common connection, inflection, deflection, reflection, genuflection have almost become the standard internationally.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the older spellings are more etymologically conservative, since these words actually derive from Latin forms in -xio-. American spelling accepts only -ize endings in most cases, such as organize, recognize, and realize. British usage accepts both -ize and the more French-looking -ise (organise, recognise, realise). The -ize spelling is preferred by some authoritative British sources including the Oxford English Dictionary. The -ize spelling is now rarely used in the UK in the mass media and newspapers, and is often incorrectly regarded as an Americanism. The -ise form is used by the British government and is more prevalent in common usage within the UK today; the ratio between -ise and -ize stands at 3:2 in the British National Corpus. Thus -ize, is used in many British-based academic publications, such as Nature, the Biochemical Journal and The Times Literary Supplement. In Australia and New Zealand -ise spellings strongly prevail; the Australian Macquarie Dictionary, among other sources, gives the -ise spelling first. Canadian usage is essentially like American. Worldwide, -ize endings prevail in scientific writing and are commonly used by many international organizations. The same pattern applies to derivatives and inflections such as colonisation/colonization. Some verbs ending in -ize or -ise do not derive from Greek, and their endings are therefore not interchangeable; some verbs take the -z- form exclusively, for instance capsize, whereas others take only -s-: advertise, advise, apprise, arise, chastise, circumcise, incise, excise, comprise, compromise, demise, despise, devise, disguise, exercise, franchise, improvise, merchandise, revise, supervise, surmise, surprise, and televise. Finally, the distribution of -yse and -yze endings, as in analyse / analyze, is different: the former is British, the latter American. Thus, UK analyse, catalyse, hydrolyse, paralyse; US analyze, catalyze, hydrolyze, paralyze. However, analyse was commonly spelled analyze from the first—the spelling preferred by Samuel Johnson; the word, which came probably from French analyser, on Greek analogy would have been analysize, from French analysiser, from which analyser was formed by haplology. In Canada, -yze prevails; in Australia, -yse stands alone;

3) some words of Greek origin, a few of which derive from Greek, can end either in -ogue or in -og: analog(ue), catalog(ue), dialog(ue), demagog(ue), pedagog(ue), monolog(ue), homolog(ue), synagog(ue) etc. In the UK (and generally in the Commonwealth), the -ogue endings are the standard. In the US, catalog has a slight edge over catalogue (note the inflected forms, cataloged and cataloging v catalogued and cataloguing); analog is standard for the adjective, but both analogue and analog are current for the noun; in all other cases the -gue endings strongly prevail, except for such expressions as dialog box in computing, which are also used in the UK. Internationally, the American spelling is closer to the usage in a number of other languages using the Latin alphabet; for instance, almost all Romance languages (which tend to have more phonemic spelling) lack the ae and oe spellings (a notable exception is French), as do Swedish, Polish, and others, while Dutch uses them (e.g. "ae" is rare and "oe");

4) compounds and hyphens - British English often prefers hyphenated compounds, such as counter-attack, whereas American English discourages the use of hyphens in compounds where there is no compelling reason, so counterattack is much more common. Many dictionaries do not point out such differences. The final consonant of an English word is sometimes doubled when adding a suffix beginning with a vowel. Generally this occurs only when the word's final syllable ends with a single vowel followed by a single consonant, and the syllable is stressed; but in British English, a final -l is often doubled even when the final syllable is unstressed. The British English doubling is required for all inflections (-ed, -ing, -er, -est) and for noun suffixes -er, -or. Therefore, British variant is counsellor, cruellest, modelling, quarrelled, signalling, traveler, American usually counselor, cruelest, modeling, quarreled, signaling, traveler. Parallel keeps a single -l- in British English, as in American English (paralleling, unparalleled), to avoid a cluster -llell-. Words with two vowels before l are covered where the first either acts as a consonant (Br equalling, initialled; US usually equaling, initialed) or belongs to a separate syllable. American English has unstressed -ll-, as in the UK, in some words where the root has -l. These are cases where the alteration occurs in the source language, often Latin. (Examples: bimetallism, cancellation, chancellor, crystallize, excellent, tonsillitis). But both dialects have compelled, excelling, propelled, rebelling (notice the stress difference); revealing, fooling (double vowel before the l); hurling (consonant before the l). Canadian and Australian English largely follow British usage. Among consonants other than l, practice varies for some words, such as where the final syllable has secondary stress or an unreduced vowel. In the US, the spellings kidnaped and worshiped, introduced by the Chicago Tribune in the 1920s, are common alongside kidnapped and worshipped, the only standard. Comparable cases where a single l occurs in American English include full→useful, handful; all→almighty, altogether; null→annul, annulment; till→until; well→welfare, welcome; chill→chilblain; and others where the connection is less transparent. Note that British fulfil and American fulfill are never fullfill or fullfil;

5) British English sometimes keeps silent e when adding suffixes where American English does not. British prefers ageing, American usually aging (compare raging, ageism). UK often routeing; US usually routing (for route; rout makes routing everywhere). Both systems retain the silent e in dyeing, singeing, swingeing, to distinguish from dying, singing, swinging. In contrast, bathe and the British bath both form bathing. UK often whingeing, US less so; whinge is chiefly British. Both systems vary for tinge and twinge; both prefer cringing, hinging, lunging, syringing. Before -able, UK prefers likeable, liveable, rateable, saleable, sizeable, unshakeable, where US prefers to drop the -e; but UK as US prefers breathable, curable, datable, lovable, movable, notable, provable, quotable, scalable, solvable, usable, and those where the root is polysyllabic, like believable or decidable. Both systems retain the silent e when necessary to preserve a soft c, ch, or g, as in traceable, cacheable, changeable; both retain e after -dge, as in knowledgeable, unbridgeable.

6) disc or disk: Traditionally, disc used to be British and disk American. Both spellings are etymologically sound (Greek diskos, Latin discus), although disk is earlier. In computing, disc is used for optical discs (e.g. a CD, Compact Disc; DVD, Digital Versatile/Video Disc) while disk is used for products using magnetic storage (e.g. floppy disk and hard disk; short for diskette). For this limited application, these spellings are used in both the US and the Commonwealth;

7) enquiry or inquiry: According to Fowler, inquiry should be used in relation to a formal inquest, and enquiry to the act of questioning. Many (though not all) British writers maintain this distinction; on the other hand, lists inquiry and enquiry as equal alternatives, in that order. Some British dictionaries, such as Chambers 21st Century Dictionary, present the two spellings as interchangeable variants in the general sense, but prefer inquiry for the "formal inquest" sense. In the US, only inquiry is commonly used. In Australia, inquiry and enquiry are often interchangeable, but inquiry prevails in writing. Both are current in Canada, where enquiry is often associated with scholarly or intellectual research;

8) ensure or insure: In the UK (and Australia), the word ensure (to make sure, to make certain) has a distinct meaning from the word insure (often followed by against – to guarantee or protect against, typically by means of an "insurance policy"). The distinction is only about a century old, and this helps explain why in (North) America ensure is just a variant of insure, more often than not. According to Merriam-Webster's usage notes, ensure and insure "are interchangeable in many contexts where they indicate the making certain or inevitable of an outcome, but ensure may imply a virtual guarantee;

9) programme or program: The British programme is a 19thcentury French version of program. Program first appeared in Scotland in the 17th century and is the only spelling found in the US. In British English, program is the common spelling for computer programs, but for other meanings programme is used. In Australia, program has been endorsed by government style for all senses since the 1960s, although programme is also common. In Canada, program prevails, and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary makes no meaning-based distinction between it and programme; many Canadian government documents use programme in all senses of the word also to match the spelling of the French equivalent;

10) tonne or ton: in the UK, the spelling tonne refers to the unit of mass usually known as the metric ton in the US; the short ton and the long ton are always thus spelled; unqualified ton usually refers to the long ton in the UK and to the short ton in the US;

11) aluminium and aluminum (the spelling 'aluminium' is the international standard in the sciences (IUPAC). The American spelling is nonetheless used by many American scientists. The name aluminium was finally adopted to conform with the -ium ending of metallic elements;

12) 'speciality' and 'specialty' - in British English the standard usage is speciality, but specialty occurs in the field of medicine and also as a legal term for a contract under seal;

13) contractions, where the final letter is present, are often written in British English without stops/periods (Mr, Mrs, Dr, St). Abbreviations where the final letter is not present generally do take stops/periods (such as vol., etc., ed.); British English shares this convention with French: Mlle, Mme, Dr, Ste, but M. for Monsieur. In American and Canadian English, abbreviations like St., Mr., Mrs., and Dr. always require stops/periods.

American and British English spelling differences are one aspect of American and British English differences. The spelling systems of Commonwealth countries, for the most part, closely resemble the British system. In a few cases, essentially the same word has a different spelling which reflects a different pronunciation. All these nuances are to be considered while learning the most commonly used international terms.

By the end of the course the students are expected to:

- listen to presentations within the domain of economics and business administration;

- give a presentation on a topic related to business economics in English;

- read and interpret specialized business economic texts;

- write an executive summary or short report in English.

To conclude, we should say that to achieve all these teaching goals and to help students to use their knowledge of English for different purposes of communication, learning the difference in using and pronouncing international terms plays a substantial role in the whole complex of the Business English course study.


1. Oxford Dictionary for International Business: Oxford University Press. - 1998.

2. Michael Swan. Practical English Usage: Oxford University Press. - 1995.

3. Geoffrey Stern. The Structure of International Society: Pinter, London and New York. - 2000.


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