England: Lost in Translation

Claire Turner is a student at Indiana University Bloomington and an ISA Featured Blogger. Claire is currently studying abroad in Reading, England on an ISA Fall 1 program.

Me and and ISA students Rachita and Bethany may be lost in translation but at least we know how to find “Reading”!!

I have been here a for almost three weeks now, and it has been the best three weeks of my life by far!  I love everything about it here. Even the weather can’t rain on my parade (pun definitely intended).  However, there are many cultural differences that caught me off guard.  The main one that has taken the majority of adjustment has been the language. I knew before coming over here that even though they spoke English here, it was completely different English than I was used to. However, I had the foolish idea that I watched enough “Doctor Who” that I would be fine, no worries. Boy was I wrong!  I never thought that “I’m sorry, what?” would become my most common phrase here.  Eventually the feeling of stupidity wears off, but to shorten the length of yours, here are some of the common verbal conflicts that I’ve had the most difficulty with so far:

Flat vs. Floor– Coming here I knew that “flat” was what the British called an apartment. However, in the context of Uni, it also means floor, in how we use it in college dorms in the U.S. So you don’t say “Oh, she lives on my floor.” Oh no no no amigo! You say “She lives in my flat”. I learned this lesson the hard way when someone asked me if my friend lived in my flat. My response: “No she lives on my floor.” “Right, so she lives in your flat…”  This one only took me a couple days to adjust to, and it still feels awkward to say it.

Course vs. Major– During your first week of college, no matter where you are, you will be asked what you are studying so much you will be saying “Communications and a minor in Business” in your sleep.  However when you are asked what you study here, you are not asked “What is your major,” but instead, “What is your course?”  Course is not Class, but course is major. Once you figure this out, you’ll be golden.  Again, yours truly learned this lesson the hard way.  When asked what course I was, I responded: “None, I still have to figure it out, cause I wasn’t allowed a course.” Response: “You’re in Uni, how were you not allowed a course..?” Cue Light bulb.

Time Tables vs. Schedules– Same kind of deal, don’t call it a schedule. When you are here, it is a timetable. I mean you can say schedule, but when you say “timetables” you sound much cooler.

Once I got the hang of these differences I felt confident enough to take the step to add in the lingo. The first step was talking currency. If you are buying something and it costs three pounds and 20 pence, you say “three pound twenty” (not three twenty pounds).  If something is 50 pence, you can just say “50 P”.  The next step was adding on “mate.”  The easiest ones for me have been “Sorry mate” and “Thanks mate.” The ultimate test is “cheers”. There is nothing more British than saying “cheers” instead of thanks.  If you have mastered adding cheers to your casual conversation than you are a better man than me mate, and will have no problem adjusting.

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