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December 2022 - Year 24 - Issue 6

ISSN 1755-9715

Mid-Atlantic English in the EFL Context: Research into the Linguistic Mixing of British and American English

This book is available from Tectum Verlag, Baden-Baden

Andy Mering is an experienced English teacher. He works in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, in the canton of Fribourg. He studied English, French and German. English has been a consuming passion since his early teens, which eventually culminated in writing a doctoral thesis on language variation.  He is thrilled to bits to have recently finished his PhD after many years of extremely rewarding research. He wrote his doctoral thesis at the University of Education, in Freiburg, Germany. The working title of his thesis is “Mid-Atlantic English - An Emerging Variety in the EFL Context? A Sociolinguistic Study of the Role of British English and American English in EFL Teaching.” Andy is very intrigued by accent variations, especially those accents found in the British Isles. He even studies them when watching British TV series such as Downton Abbey or Eastenders, etc.. Email:



In this article, I would like to provide you with some interesting context and facts about my research into the linguistic mixing of British English (BrE) and American English (AmE) in the EFL context. BrE as the sole educational standard has been overridden by the huge influence of American English (AmE). This novel sociolinguistic situation results in the linguistic mixing of BrE and AmE and therefore begs for a conceptualisation of this mixed speech called Mid-Atlantic English (MAE). It is based on a belief that the knowledge of the differences between BrE and AmE assists learners in becoming proficient cross-cultural communicators through situational adaptation, i.e. the use of BrE is no longer the best choice for accommodation. It is worth noting that AmE is the most popular variety of English among Europe’s young people and is also overwhelmingly preferred in higher education.

It is to be hoped that teachers and teacher trainees or anyone interested in ELT will find this book to be a valuable tool in their efforts to foster the teaching of English as a pluricentric language, whereby the raising of diverse native and non-native varieties of English takes centre stage.   


Background information on my research area

The global dissemination of English is doubtless attributable to two input languages: BrE and AmE. BrE, spoken today by 66.5 million people, gave input to global English mainly through Britain’s role as a colonial power in the 17th and 18th centuries. It truly became a world language during Queen Victoria’s reign in the 19th century.

AmE, with 330 million speakers, gave input to global English through the rise of the USA to a world power in the 20th century, mostly because of its economic power. In addition, American culture has spread across the world, especially due to Hollywood films and American television series, the popularity of American music, and product brands such as Coke, McDonalds, or Starbucks, which are considered trendy in most countries. Relying heavily on AmE, today up to more than 800 million people make use of English as a lingua franca.

Owing to the international prominence of AmE, which is used by 70% of all native speakers of English, EFL speakers’ sociolinguistic profile seems to be shifting. Up until the 1980s, EFL teaching had a BrE base, which underwent processes of linguistic Americanization in the 1990s. As a result, EFL students have tended to speak a mix of BrE and AmE, labelled as MAE. This is my research area.


About the book

This book reveals the extent to which the hybrid variety of MAE has replaced the division into the varieties of BrE and AmE amongst a large EFL constituency.

The book has three parts. The first part deals with the definitions and the state of research on MAE and also addresses the main linguistic differences between the two main varieties, BrE and AmE respectively. The second part covers the results of the empirical study. The empirical part is then followed by a didactic one, which seeks to demonstrate how a pluricentric vision of English may be implemented in the EFL classroom through the task-based approach by offering several tasks.

Within the framework of a quantitative research design, I analyse language use in the lexical, phonological, grammatical and orthographic areas of a total of 306 survey participants. I chose four informant groups: school pupils at upper secondary level, students of English studies at university, non-native English teachers and British native speakers. In addition, I also closely examined my informants’ attitudes towards different varieties of English.

In the theoretical part, I first look into the concept of MAE. In addition, I deal with the didactic and sociolinguistic issue of "consistency", i.e. the demand to keep BrE or AmE separate or not, and the "singularity principle", which encapsulates the staunch belief in a single variety as the bulwark of correct usage, i.e. the adherence to the culture-specific BrE variety in most cases. I then move on by subjecting a selection of some existing empirical studies on MAE to critical scrutiny. These studies on the MAE paradigm were mainly conducted in Sweden.

Furthermore, I critically review the concepts of "MAE", "Euro-English" and "English as a Lingua Franca" (ELF), based on the work of Jenkins 2000, Modiano 2009/2020 and Mollin 2006, amongst others.

In the following sections of the theoretical part, the focus is on the linguistic description of the two main varieties. I first delve deeper into the various lexical contrasts, taking into account many individual lexemes, for example pairs such as flat/apartment, biscuits/cookies and trainers/sneakers. After considering various systematic differences between Received Pronunciation (RP) and General American English (GAE) with regard to individual sounds and different stress patterns (including rhoticity, voiceless /t/ vs. voiced tap /t/, yod-dropping vs. yod-retention, different syllable stresses), I also attend to various lexico-grammatical differences that are characteristic of BrE and AmE. This includes the different use of certain prepositions (e.g. at the weekend/on the weekend), regular and irregular verbs (dreamt/dreamed), or different uses of the simple past and present perfect (have just seen/just saw) or collective nouns (a team have…/a team has…).

Moreover, some well-known systematic differences in spelling (e.g. BrE -our vs AmE -or, BrE -re vs AmE -er, BrE -ise vs AmE -ize, BrE -isation vs AmE -ization) are presented and briefly discussed.

The empirical study focuses on the question of which varieties (BrE/AmE) are chosen by the participants from the four surveyed groups with regard to pronunciation, lexis, lexico-grammar and orthography. Thus, this study aimed to investigate how inconsistent participants’ language use is. Furthermore, in a second step, the informant groups’ attitudes both to the two main varieties and other varieties of English are determined.

Another part of the study was to play an audio text taken from the International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA). The primary aim was to find out school and university students’ attitudes to six different varieties of English (Indian English, English English, Swiss English, American English, Chinese English, Scottish English). Their accent recognition ability was also researched with regard to these six varieties of English.

Additionally, the pronunciation of the school pupils and students of English studies at university was tested by means of a short self-penned text. It aimed to check the realisation of various individual sounds and stress patterns of English with a view to establishing whether or not these two groups speak a mix of BrE and AmE.

In the presentation of the results, I first offer those relevant to participants’ personal information (age, gender, nationality ….). Then I provide and discuss the various influences to which the informants’ English is exposed: e.g. stays abroad, English-language media use, personal contacts with native speakers… Subsequently, the language use of a host of variables at the lexical, lexico-grammatical, phonological and orthographic levels are thoroughly discussed. All results are shown in various tables, in which the respective frequency of occurrence is presented. In these tables, the variables are categorised according to whether the subjects use one particular form exclusively (i.e. AmE or BrE) or whether they use both forms. The variables are also classified according to whether they belong to the category of Americanisms or Briticisms. The category Americanisms results from adding up the percentage rate of the items in the response category ‘AmE’ (i.e. exclusive use of the AmE lexical/ grammatical items …) with the rate in the ‘I use both’ category. The use of Briticisms was determined by adding up the percentage rate of the items in the response category ‘BrE’ (i.e. exclusive use of the BrE lexical/grammatical items …) with that in the ‘I use both’ category. 

Overall, my research clearly showed that all the surveyed groups actually tend very strongly towards mixed forms at all linguistic levels. However, at all linguistic levels there are sometimes considerable differences between the individual groups with regard to the frequency of the use of Americanisms, especially at the vocabulary level.

Thinking beyond the outcomes of the survey, the last chapter of the book encompasses the didactic part. It first concentrates on demonstrating how language variation may be put into effect through the task-based approach, on the premise that it optimally gears up EFL students for the huge diversity of English varieties spoken in international communicative interactions as well as their encounters with it in contexts such as the Internet, on TV and in films. Then, the focus is on the sole variety of AmE by proposing an analysis of EFL learning materials. The aim is to scrutinise to what extent AmE is accounted for in them.

As mentioned earlier, it is vital to prepare EFL users for the use of English as a language of wider communication. Hutz’s project on English Around the World, the framework of which constitutes the basis of my suggested exercises, furnishes an extremely useful tool for raising EFL students’ awareness of the multi-varietal nature of English and fostering its familiarisation with it. Through tasks the learner explores different varieties in a systematic way. This project particularly targets upper secondary students but can easily be adapted for lower levels as well.

The present book ends with a conclusion and an outlook on the teaching of English as a foreign language by suggesting a set of suggestions and recommendations, which may be helpful in fostering an expedient communication for EFL students in cross-cultural settings.

Tagged  Publications 
  • Mid-Atlantic English in the EFL Context: Research into the Linguistic Mixing of British and American English
    reviewed by the author, Andy Mering, Switzerland

  • Short Book Reviews
    Hanna Kryszewska, Poland

  • Crown House Publishing: 40 Ways to Diversify the History Curriculum: A practical handbook
    by Elena Stevens

  • Tune into English
    Fergal Kavanagh, Italy