Is that British English or American English?

Most people know there are differences between British and American English. 

For example, a Briton goes on holiday but an American goes on vacation. We all can find houses in our towns, but Britons have the option of living in flats while Americans have apartments

Furthermore, I am sure many of us have been confused by chips and fries 🍟 — Britons love their fish and chips while Americans are famous for the burgers and fries

The list goes on.

While many of these differences are harmless or may not cause too much confusion, there are instances that could put you into an embarrassing situation (Google the difference between the British use pants and the American version).

Nonetheless, we get by in communicating in daily life, but when it comes to work we may need to be extra careful about the words we choose in order to avoid mistakes and misunderstandings, such as can happen in an architecture office that has people from different nationalities.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

English for an Architecture

Working in architecture can be an international affair and the common language is often English.

An Italian architect working with a Hungarian client – English could allow this pairing to work. But, what if one person was taught British English and the other was taught American? Some differences would not create a lot of confusion.

If I wrote in an email, ‘I think a gray pattern for the bathroom tiling would complement the warm color or the cabinets’, a British client would obviously understand I meant a ‘grey pattern’ and ‘warm colour’. Plus, in a spoken conversation there would not be any difference as the pronunciations are the same. 

But, what if I, as an American, said, “The pavement is deteriorating and we need to redo it before the car traffic can resume use.”? Someone who only knows British English might look at me strangely. They would be visualizing the pavement as the walking space for pedestrians between shops and a street (what Americans refer to as the sidewalk), but I was referring to the material of the street itself, on which cars drive (which in Britain is called the road surface). 

Confusing, huh? 🤔

Image by Henryk Niestrój from Pixabay

Often these mishaps are straightened out in conversations by understanding the context and asking questions. If the word doesn’t make sense in the situation, ask questions! Don’t hesitate to use your English lesson tactics you learned about asking questions for clarifying and double checking your understanding. 

For example, if you hear someone say, “We would like to design a new dresser to fit perfectly into the nook in the renovated bedroom”, and you are not familiar with the American word dresser, you could respond with, “Do you mean a chest of drawers? The piece of furniture where you keep your folded clothes?”. 

This clarifying question states the word you are familiar with but adds a common definition in case the other person does not know your British version. 

Problem solved 👍

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