Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Is American English Creeping Into Writing by Children ?

Earlier this week Oxford University Press (OUP) revealed the results of their analysis of the 74,074 entries into the Radio 2 (2012) 500 Words Competition, run by the Chris Evans radio show.

Now as a parent whose children are now taking GCSE's, I can confidently say that the way English has been taught in schools has changed quite a bit since they were in the primary classes- emphasis on the preferred reading scheme, regular book reading and spelling tests for words that children were expected to be able to spell by the end of the school year.

So that may explain why one of the results of the OUP's analysis was that; "Children are excellent at spelling the more unusual words (pterodactyl) while there is some confusion over more common words (does and didn’t), and construction of tenses (waked up)."

As lots of adults still have problems with spelling common words (I certainly have a few I always get wrong) and I'm sure we've all heard someone holding a conversation and mixing their tenses up.

 (I think a writer notices these more because the editing side of their brain is always alert to these issues...But not everyone is good at spelling however hard they try.)

And now to the word choices; "American vocabulary (e.g. trash can, sidewalk, candy) featured in the stories especially those written by 10-13 year olds, arguably due to the vogue for US-penned novels such as Twilight and The Hunger Games."

The fact they've ascribed that to books is good in a way, but I think they have ignored another source- children's television programmes. And the 10-13 year olds would have probably had the most long term exposure.

Making high quality children's programmes is expensive, and while there is still some drama based on children's books- Young Dracula for example, generally the number of home-grown productions has declined to be replaced with less costly, bought in programmes from the US - which obviously were made for their own market and would use their own terminology for our bin, pavement and sweets...

This article by the Guardian's education editor, Jeevan Vasagar, also highlights the regional differences in word use, and the differences in writing style between the sexes.
It's well worth reading.

And the really good news is that text-speak is not taking over...

5 comments:

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Really interesting post, Carol. I definitely think American English has already crept into our language, but I did hear some Americans complain that our versions are creeping into their language too!

Dream it, then do it said...

I read a long time ago that many American words are, in fact, from the Old English vocabulary and it is us Brits that have invented new words for things. I don't know how much of this is true but I don't think we should get too snooty about Americanisms. (Is that a proper word?)

Carolb said...

That's interesting to hear, Rosemary, that reverse effect news never reaches the news. Thanks. :-)

I don't think American vocabulary changed as quickly as it did in the UK, Keith, but there's bound to be differences after 200 plus years.:-)

Tonyb said...

As someone who tended to comment on politics regularly, in a national daily newspaper until it suspended my account last month. I guess I upset someone.

I found that the automatic spell-checkers used by both the Daily Express and Daily Mail query the English spelling of words such modeling and modelling. Words where we use the letter S and Americans use Z.

As children text a lot and 'twitter' it's possible that the same thing is happening.

Carolb said...

Spell checkers have a lot to answer for.
Thanks for commenting, Tonyb.