If you understand British English then you will understand American English, and vice versa. I can promise you that. What at times we may think is a huge difference between British and American English isn’t actually that much. With the power of the internet our two worlds are closer than ever, and as a native British English speaker I often find myself asking, “Have I spelt that correctly?” or “Did I say that properly?”
You will soon realise (or realize) that there are thousands of words in the British vocabulary which are different when compared to American English. British people will “park their car in the carpark” and “open their boot to get their handbag.” Whereas American people will “park their car in the parking lot,” and “open their trunk to get their purse.” Luckily, it’s pretty easy to guess what the ‘unknown’ word is once you have heard the context of the sentence.
When reading texts from either side of the pond you will see that the spellings are also ever so slightly different. The British ‘our’ loses the ‘u’ and becomes ‘or.’ For example, “My neighbours’ behaviour has been colourful,” vs “My neighbors’ behavior has been colorful.” My friend was using my laptop the other day and spell-check highlighted the word ‘apologize.’ She soon noticed that it is because my laptop is from the UK and follows the -ise rule instead of -ize. “I apologise for my lack of organisation,” would become “I apologize for my lack of organization.” In British English, words ending in a vowel and the letter L tend to double the L, as in ‘travelling.’ In American English, speakers tend to use one L, like ‘traveling.’ You will go to the ‘theatre’ in London, but in New York you will go to the ‘theater.’ Words ending in ‘re’ will change to ‘er.’ In the UK you will have a ‘driving licence’ but in the States you will have your ‘drivers license’ because of the nse/nce change. The good thing is the spelling changes are not huge! I to one or the other as there will be no difficulty understanding either version.
One thing I learned a few years ago was the small difference we have between Past Tense Verbs. Had I read the previous sentence a few years ago, I would’ve said it was incorrect because I did not know there was a slight difference with the past form of irregular verbs. The British would tend to say “A few years ago I learnt…” instead of using the ‘ed’ ending. The past tense of learn in British English can be either learnt or learned, however, we tend to use the ’t’ ending. Americans will only use the ‘ed’ ending. You will have no problem being understood using either the American or the British method.
There are a few more rules that can be looked up if you find the time. I find the small variations we have in the English language very interesting. How boring would it be if everyone spoke the same way?! The beauty of this language is its diversity. English is spoken worldwide so it is bound to be unique in different areas. I know the way we speak in the North of Scotland is different from the way people speak in the North of England, and that is one of the truly fun parts about language! As a British English teacher in Mexico, I like to teach both methods so my students are aware and can use English in the way that feels most comfortable to them. Ultimately it doesn’t matter which method you use, as long as you stick to one. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, so if you have any questions or comments please feel free to write me below.