English is one of the toughest languages to learn. This is almost universally agreed upon.
You know what’s even tougher? Learning proper English when you’ve spent your entire life speaking and writing in American English.
British English is almost as different from American English as any two other languages you could pick. The grammar is different. The punctuation is different. The slang is different. The spellings of some of the same words are different. As an American reading British writing (for the charity anthology project I’m working on–with primarily British writers), it can be frustrating. Is this a misspelling or just a cultural difference? What the heck is this word? What the fuck does this even mean?
For the writers of the anthology, one of our functions is to critique the other writers’ works. This critique process helps to clean up first drafts, second drafts, etc. It also gives the author of each piece a different perspective of how the piece reads. It’s a great process, and it has improved my writing immensely. However, as a “foreigner” when it comes to British English, I feel as though I’m trying to critique a short story/poem/etc that’s written in Greek or Spanish.
Granted, I’ve learned quite a lot about British English through this project. When I watch a British television show I’m not quite as lost at some points as I may otherwise be. It’s quite interesting to see the differences in two languages that are supposed to be the same language. No wonder it’s considered one of the toughest languages to learn. You can learn British English fluently, then take a trip to America and suddenly feel as though you don’t know English at all (or vice versa).
Since I’m partially bilingual (I know Spanish well enough to converse with the Mexican patients at work and we can largely understand each other, but I don’t consider myself fluent), does my newfound knowledge of British English make me actually trilingual? It’s a fascinating concept.