Why It Is Not a Good Idea to Use a Torch during a Power Outage in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (and Other Musings)

However, it is a perfectly sensible idea if you come from that part of the world where British English is spoken. But English is English is English, right?

Well, I’m sure that’s what our students here at the Center for New Americans thought when they landed in their new home. Many of them studied English in their home countries, be it at school or to get prepared for their move to America. Many of their countries were colonized by the British, so their English was influenced by British English as well.

Today, there are more than 80 countries in the world today where the official torchlanguage is English. Most of these are former territories of the British Empire. Over 2 billion people in the world speak English, but word choice and pronunciation vary greatly.

English is the official language of the United Nations, the European Union and many other international organizations and businesses. These differences come up in the classroom almost on a daily basis.

When we practice how to write a complete sentence and I explain to the students how important it is to put a period at the end they look at me with a bewildered look on their faces. “Oh, you mean a full stop, teacher.” Yes, that’s what I mean.

When we talk about the possibility of a power outage during a thunderstorm, they tell me not to worry. “We have a torch in our house, we will use a torch to give us light.” An American torch would have a disastrous effect; the term flashlight would be much more appropriate here.

In Sioux Falls, our students may live in a second floor apartment and take the elevator up to their floors. A speaker of British English, on the other hand, would describe the same home as a flat on the first floor and use the lift to get there. In America, a woman might wear a bonnet, whereas in British English this same word describes the hood of a car. Americans eat French fries while the British eat chips. Many American children wear braces on their teeth, but British men wear braces to hold up their pants. And the list goes on.


With that being said, Cheers!

Written by:
Silke Hansen | LSS Center for New Americans ESL Instructor and Interpreter

300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 Sioux Falls, SD 57103

605-731-2041 direct, 1-866-242-2447 toll free


Strengthening Individuals, Families and Communities

Images courtesy of Fluentland.com and Pinterest



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