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Lesson Transcript

Gabriella: Hi, I’m Gabriella.
Gina: And I’m Gina. Top Five Tips For Avoiding Common Mistakes in British English.
Gabriella: These tips will help you avoid simple mistakes, the kind that anyone can make, but they are all mistakes that will hurt your English.
Gina: Yes, these are mistakes that not only beginners make, but also more advanced learners can still make too.
Gabriella: The first mistake to avoid, is to be careful with your spelling.
Gina: We’ve mentioned this in previous lessons, but it is such a major and common mistake.
Gabriella: Those unspoken letters, double letters and words that are spelt differently to their pronunciation can even catch native English speakers out, so learners have to be extra careful.
Gina: If you spell a word wrong and change it into a different one, it can change the meaning of a sentence and even if it doesn’t become a different word, it will interrupt the flow.
Gabriella: And I think this is such an easy mistake to avoid if only a little extra care is taken. Use a dictionary to check words you aren’t 100% certain of, or make use of computerised spell checks.
Gina: And of course, be careful with British and American spellings! If you’re writing in British English, use the British English spellings! Although the American ones are still technically correct, they look incorrect and will be wrong to a British reader.
Gabriella: From spelling we move onto tip 2 – be careful with your pronunciation!
Gina: Of course! As well as being careful with your spelling when you write, you should be careful with your pronunciation when you speak. It’s all about communication, right?
Gabriella: Right. I guess these first two tips go hand in hand. It can be very frustrating to speak to a native speaker if you can’t make yourself understood, and probably the most frequent cause is bad pronunciation. Listen to native speakers and try to copy them.
Gina: Llisten to as much native British English as you can so that you can become familiar with how the words are pronounced and where the stresses are placed.
Gabriella: There are so many accents in English, and even just in British English, but this doesn’t mean that pronunciation isn’t important. People in different areas may say some words slightly differently, but that’s due to their accents, not their bad pronunciation.
Gina: What is your next tip?
Gabriella: Be careful with your language!
Gina: Language?
Gabriella: English can be a very casual language. Even in situations where you might expect formal language to be used, such as at work or with people older than you, it can still be more usual to speak casually.
Gina: Right. I’ve been in a lot of situations, such as job interviews, where I expected things to be more formal than they were. I think that sometimes, people like to speak more casually because it makes the situation more relaxed and less tense.
Gabriella: I think so too. So, it could be easy to think that casual English is acceptable everywhere – but it isn’t.
Gina: That’s true. A lot of the words and phrases used in movies and on TV wouldn’t be suitable in many different situations.
Gabriella: Yes, especially some movie dialogues! There are a lot of occasions where you just have to start formally, and see how it goes.
Gina: Like the job interview I mentioned earlier. It started pretty formally, but then relaxed and we were joking with each other. If you aren’t sure, just follow the lead of the person you’re speaking to.
Gabriella: I think that’s a good idea!
Gina: Thank you! Let’s move onto the next tip.
Gabriella: Be careful with your nouns!
Gina: Nouns? What mistakes are commonly made with nouns?
Gabriella: I think there are two…. The first is not using the correct article, or not using them at all.
Gina: Ah, yes. Articles are those little words that precede nouns such as “a”, “an” or “the”. They can be tricky if your native language doesn’t use them.
Gabriella: They can, but if you don’t use them correctly or don’t use them at all it makes your English sound stilted and unnatural. A simple sentence such as “I have a pen”, sounds completely wrong without the article.
Gina: “I have pen.” Yeah… that sounds bad.
Gabriella: In that sentence it’s just one letter that is missing but it really makes a difference.
Gina: It does, so definitely be careful with your articles. Okay, you said there were two mistakes made with nouns, so what is the second?
Gabriella: Plurals. Count and non-count nouns.
Gina: Count nouns are nouns that can be made plural by adding an “s” or “es”, such as apples or pens.
Gabriella: That’s right. But not every noun can be made plural so easily – these are non-count nouns. They need a qualifier before them such as “glasses of water” or “pieces of research”. You can’t add an “s” or “es” to these.
Gina: It’s important to know the difference, right?
Gabriella: Definitely. Do you want to hear my last tip?
Gina: Ok let’s hear it!
Gabriella: Be careful with your version of English! There aren’t just spelling and pronunciation differences between British and American English, but there are also vocabulary differences.
Gina: That’s right. Most differences won’t really cause any problems. If you say “elevator” instead of “lift” in the UK, people will understand you, although they may think it is slightly strange that you used the American term!
Gabriella: There are some words that can cause problems though! Gina, what is a “chip”?
Gina: It’s made from sliced potatoes and fried. You would eat it with fish or burgers.
Gabriella: Yes, that’s what it means in British English but in American English, you just described a French fry.
Gina: So what is a chip in American English?
Gabriella: It’s a baked potato or corn snack that comes in foil wrappers and flavours such as salt and vinegar or cheese and onion.
Gina: We call that a “crisp” in British English, don’t we? Ahhh, it means two different things. If I ask for chips in the UK, I’d get something different to what I’d get in America.
Gabriella: That’s right. Next, can you define “pants” for me?
Gina: That’s underwear – what you would wear underneath a skirt or trousers.
Gabriella: But in American English, it is your trousers.
Gina: Ahhh, if you were to get that mixed up it could be embarrassing!
Gabriella: It could! So definitely be careful with British and American English!
Gina: Thanks for the tips. I’m sure our listeners will find them very useful.


Gina: Ok, everyone. I think that’s all for this lesson.
Gabriella: Thank you for listening everyone. See you next time!