Language Center
The Hong Kong University
of Science and Technology
English Advice Sheets
LISTENING TO BRITISH AND AMERICAN ENGLISH
L5

Who is this for?

This leaflet is for anyone who wants to improve their listening to American and British English.

Aim of this leaflet

The aim of this leaflet is to introduce you to material for practicing listening to British and American English.

Basic differences between American and British English

In spoken English the main difference between American and British is the accent, but there are also differences in the use and meaning of words. In everyday speech, however, these differences do not cause many problems.

Useful material in the SAC

For individual words, the two electronic pronunciation dictionaries on the CD-ROM Reference Station are quick and easy to use for comparing British (Longman Interactive English Dictionary) and American (American Heritage Dictionary) pronunciation.

The above two electronic pronunciation dictionaries and others in bookform, such as the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary provide British/American equivalent words. For example, for trousers (British English), the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary will also give the American equivalent pants.

For listening to news, try the ITN World News video (on the 'TV News' shelf in the Multimedia Area) for British English, and Focus on Business video (on the 'Business' shelf in the Multimedia Area) for American English.

The SAC also has a number of CD-ROMs for listening where the English used is either British or American. Here are some of them:

British English CD-ROMs   American English CD-ROMs
Small Talk (1-3)   Daily Living At Work
English For Business   Pronunciation Plus
Learn English With Asterix And Son   Executive New York City
Telephone Talk (1-2)   Executive San Francisco
Listen! Ten Interactive English Lessons   Listen! Ten Interactive English Lessons
Listen! Ten More Interactive English Lessons   Listen! Ten More Interactive English Lessons

Other materials

  • The BBC World Service radio broadcasts (available on Radio 6, 675kHz) are a rich source of British English.
  • The 2 local English TV channels (TVB and ATV) have both American and British news presenters. You could try identifying and comparing their accents.
  • Try also identifying whether your own lecturers speak with an American or British accent and note and compare their differences in accent and word usage.
  • Various videos and films in the SAC contain British and American English. Two video series for learning British English and culture (on the shelves in the Multimedia Area) are:
    • Follow Me
    • People and Places
  • The World-Wide-Web (WWW) has various sites that contain listening materials. Two sites for access to news in American English are:

And Now...

If you would like any help or advice, or just a chat about your progress, please get in touch - we are here to support your independent learning! To contact us:

  • see an Adviser, on duty at the SAC Advice Desk (for details of advisers and their availability, please go to http://lc.ust.hk/~sac/sacadviser.html)
  • e-mail lcsac (lccommons@ust.hk) with your query;
  • ask at the reception counter of the SAC — if the receptionist cannot help you directly, s/he will pass your query on to one of the SAC advisers.

Note
The introductory leaflet in this series is the leaflet Improving your listening (L1).

This advice sheet is part of the Listening series of leaflets supporting independent learning, produced by the HKUST Center for Language Education SAC team. This leaflet was written by Ken Chan, 1997. Version 1. If you copy from this leaflet, please acknowledge the source. Thanks.

©Copyright 2004 Center for Language Education, HKUST. All rights reserved.