Surely you must be thinking to yourself that Spanky has lost his ever loving mind with a post titled Speak English or Die. I am an international traveler and speak smatterings of other languages so why the hell would I post something so blatantly offensive in a post? Hello Google Page Ranking!
This post is not about going to a country where no one speaks English. Instead this is about the various forms of English that exist around the world. The majority of readers on this site are North American (According to Analytics) and if you haven’t ventured outside of America or Latin America I’m going to offer you a bit of culture shock, American English is not commonly spoken around the world. Sorry my Canadian friends, outside of some slang you guys speak American English. What I am talking about is the Queens English and European English (mostly Queens English with a Continental twist).
The first time I was in Europe I was shocked at how formal the Dutch spoke English. As an American I had taken it for granted that my English was the norm and little did I know I would sound like an uneducated idiot when speaking to the various people I ran into while I was in The Netherlands. European English is very formal (think like a job interview) because they are taught that in school where you will not be exposed to slang or common everyday, lets call it street English. So I had to force myself to speak far more formally than I was used to when I was around friends or associates. Even in my recent trip to Europe when I was in Prague I had to shift myself to the more formal English except when I was bitching at Big Daddy.
Now we move on to Queens English which is spoke by the English which the English themselves love to call “Proper English” and then cram it down an Americans throat with glee. Trust me when I say that an Englishman and an American can be talking about boots and bonnets, the Englishman would actually be talking about the trunk on a car and the hood while the American would be thinking it was about footwear and a hat. Even British Slang is different like “taking the piss out of you” for an American would mean giving you a rash of shit. Over time with my travels I have learned to decipher the UK English slang and terms by watching too much Top Gear on BBC, being around Brits and reading international mongering boards that have a large number of UK based members.
Most countries around the world will speak some form of Queens English with the exception of Latin American which I’ll explain in a bit. This is mainly caused by the former British Empire covering so much of the Earth and the fact that the BBC is internationally available in every country. Yes you can get CNN International in a lot of places these days but the anchors tend to be UK Based or Born. The exception to this rule is Latin America. They are more exposed to American television and the largest number of English speaking foreigners visiting the country are Americans and Canadians. I would still recommend using a more formal English and skip the slang while you are in Latin America but you will find yourself more easily understood.
So before your next trip into the wild unknown I highly recommend you polish up your English and and check out The Best of British website that provides handy (yet cheeky) translations and definitions. You could even use it on your CV (resume for us Americans) and say you are bilingual!
PS – Title blatantly stolen from the S.O.D. (Storm Troopers of Death) song called Speak English or Die. Enjoy!