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British English

Although I love DuoLingo, there is one thing that has been troubling me about the translations. Whenever I use a British English word such as 'colour' or 'apologise', DuoLingo tells me I have a typo/have made an error. Being British, this can get quite annoying over time as I'm being told my own language is wrong. Hopefully this can be fixed so the words are accepted as the American English words are.

Thanks :)

August 27, 2013

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Not a new issue, and Duo has been getting better at accepting Brit-isms in the year I have been here. One thing that I think one needs to develop -- or go crazy with frustration ;) -- is the understanding that 'unaccepted by Duo' and 'wrong' are often two very different things, in English, Spanish, etc.....


I am simply asking that DuoLingo doesn't regard my language as an error, that is all (:


I have been using the British spelling system the entire time and have never been marked wrong for it, seems like there are only a few minor issues left. Words as a whole are a different issue, pants vs trousers and so on, although I have been fortunate to use the correct ones so far it seems but quite a few people in the comments have reported issues.


I'm replying here instead of below b/c no reply there. Come to think of it, it was "inside lane" versus "outside lane". (Not center lane-- sorry, it was quite a while ago!) In the US outside lane means the lane farthest from the center of the road. Apparently the opposite in UK.


All I asked for is that British English words are accepted as easily as American words, why the big US vs UK discussion??


They are though, at least the ones known by the team. The point is, that they aren't going to be able to magically predict the way we speak. There is error reporting in the site though, use it.


I mostly always use my iPhone/iPad for DuoLingo..


This is especially important during teaching. Duolingo taught me pants as "Hosen" in German, assuming I knew that they actually meant trousers, which I didn't.

I only just realised what was actually meant after reading one of the comments above (it has been almost a year since I learnt the word).


Is this what you mean? I don't know the German words, but one of my UK flickr friends cracked me up in a comment- sadly I can't recapture his wonderful use of words, but he said something to the effect: Pants are worn inside trousers.


I take it you're from the US? "Pants are worn inside trousers." is a totally normal sentence to me, haha.


Yes, I am from the US. If you read above you'll see that I lived in the UK for 10 years. I guess I didn't explain (and can't since the flickr comment was ages ago) but I guess what made me laugh was not my friend's comment, but somehow the comments that led up to it-from those in the US.

Sometimes it's hard to explain why I find particular things amusing.

I realize that "pants are worn inside trousers" explains the situation, but I have to ask, how often do you have to use that particular sentence? lol


An interesting discussion. I am English and have noticed that Duo have accepted most of my English spellings and many phrases. There is no point about being precious about our own particular brand of the language and I am happy to input Americanisms when I realise what is being asked for. I am only disappointed if I put in a translation that I know is right and it is rejected. Duo can't be on top of all of them so we should just report them as they came up. The site does appear to respond and if our version is good English although not standard American it will no doubt trickle through


They are addressing this and I don't think they really want to be a US centric site. When I first started, when French was still in beta, there was a heavy bias towards US usage. Now, over a year later, there is much less and they have responded to many of the issues - colour is now accepted, for example. There are still some that still haven't been changed though - pants/trousers being one - so just keep drawing their attention to it in the Report a Problem section. I'm sure they will keep making changes based how many of mine they have accepted.


Thanks for posting olmyster! We do try to accept British and American spellings. Do you remember exactly what sentences you were translating when you got the typo message? Please report specific instances through the "report a problem" option so we can add the missing variants as quickly as possible :)

Thanks again!


One instance I can think of is that Brits don't really use the terms 'in school' or 'in college' but rather 'at school' or 'at university'. Also, I got marked wrong for translating comfy instead of cosy but I think they have the same meaning. These aren't really a big deal, just a couple of things I encountered today.


I've seen this discussion is already five years old and it is really frustrating that I still get translations marked as wrong when using 'at school' instead of 'in school' or other British words.


"Comfy" and "cosy" are synonymous in American English and are both common words. This is not an instance of marking Britishisms incorrect.


Comfy and cosy are not really synonyms in Australian English which draws very heavily on British English. We would describe a house as cosy, perhaps, but never comfy and we would describe our clothing as comfy, but never cosy.

Comfy here refers typically to a physical feeling of comfort whereas cosy refers more usually to the 'feeling' or vibe that a place gives you. Although they can be used interchangeably I find that they rarely are.


The example i was thinking of was describing a cushion/pillow. I translated as comfy which is the word i think most Brits would use, but was marked wrong - it wanted cosy.


Yeah I definitely would not describe a cushion as cosy. As per Myra's comment, we are encouraged to correct and inform them whenever a correct non-American form of expression is not accepted.


Except that "cosy" is spelled "cozy" in American English. (And actually, I agree with the previous posters; these two words have a subtle but definite distinction in meaning.)


The American spelling is "cozy"


I will next time!

Thanks (:


The big American flag with "translate English" underneath it. That's getting pretty grating. This is the usual reason I give up on Duolingo, this and being told the the bill is the check. I've been using duo on and off for years, and this really is the biggest reason I out it down for a while


I agree. Just having some sort of toggle between US and Commonwealth English would be swell. I keep seeing the US flag and thinking, 'But I don't want to translate to American.' They're very similar but annoying when the variances aren't recognised (like how typing 'recognise' puts a red line under it as though it's not a word).


But what about misleading words? British and American English are no longer same language. I am not writing about different spelling and pronunciation . There are lots different words.Just some examples: British - American pants - underpants trousers - pants trainers - sneakers chips - french fries crisps - potato chips And so on. I have recommended duolingo to my friends and some of them use it but no one who wish learn English. There is always same issue. There little chance for European to go to US but there is big demand in Europe to learn English. I think duolingo looses lots of people this way. Is is sad as through my 10+ year interest in language I haven't found better app to learn language. I just don't understand it. There is a ready course it needs only new pronunciation rules implement and change of some words and voila you have got the next one. You can in such case use more area specific adds. Please don't take my post as criticism. I would put it strongly. Duolingo is best language learning system I ever seen. You are doing excellent job. Thank you for that.



It does so many languages. Why not include British English? As an intermediate I had thought that it would help refresh and expand my skills. I'm finding I'm doing three way translations from French to British and then from the offered words, trying to work out what the American is. And vice versa.


If "colour" will be accepted by Duolingo, is it going to improve? when the English language just has a big US flag?


Agree. English isn't just a language of the US - there's a whole wide world out there, not least us Brits!


Also, when it asks us to call trousers 'pants' we're learning it wrong.


It's people like you wha' dinnae say "keks" ... :D hee hee hee ...


Of course I had to google what this means :)

And it's funny because "keks" means a cookie in my native language :D


Don't forget to clear your browser's cookies when it gets frightened badly ... :D


Yesterday I used the word 'mum' in the translation box and I lost a life as the correct answer was apparently 'mom' - this is what needs to be fixed!


I feel the same, and seeing that you left this comment 3 years ago, and it hasn't been changed, I feel bad. I'm British as well, and I do find this very annoying


Can't they just make an UK-English and US-English version of the course - it wouldn't require changing many examples. I find some of it very confusing sometimes when I'm looking for the UK-English word (e.g. Autumn, trousers, sweets etc.) and I can't find it.


Also, it's not just American spelling, it's American grammar. They will say that your English translation is wrong for things such as dates. E.g. the 26th of July vs July 26th.


This is amazing that a online service that helps people learn other languages FAILS to allow users to choose their prefered version of english.

The British version of English (The original version), is the internationally accepted version of English and not the U.S.version.

The U.N. uses British version English : "The English texts of treaties that are signed by both the United Kingdom and the United States use British English usage and spelling out of respect for the seniority of the United Kingdom as the mother country of the English language."

Only 23% of the world's english speaking population, come from the U.S.. Meaning that 77% of the rest of the would (speaking british english) are told "mum" is an error. IT IS NOT an error.


The British version of English (The original version), is the internationally accepted version of English and not the U.S.version.


Only 23% of the world's english speaking population, come from the U.S.. Meaning that 77% of the rest of the would (speaking british english) are told "mum" is an error. IT IS NOT an error.

Really? I'm quite interested in your sources for these claims.

Here are different claims for you to ponder:

Linguist Braj Kachru, quoted by the Christian Science Monitor in 1996, stated that "American English is spreading faster than British English". The Monitor stated that English taught in Europe, India, and parts of Asia and Africa is more British-influenced, while English taught in Latin America, Philippines, Liberia, Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan and South Korea is more American-influenced; however, most English use outside the classroom is more influenced by the United States: Americans greatly outnumber Britons; in addition, as of 1993, the United States originated 75 percent of the world's TV programming.[48] A BBC columnist assessed in 2015 that "American English is the current dominant force globally, like it or not".[49]


The World Rushes To Speak and Write 'American' English

Britain's 'mother tongue' takes a lickin' from the Americanization of the emerging global language


And, if the world wants "Original" English then it should choose the US version:

Then British English started changing in ways American didn’t. The ‘proper’ English of the early 1600s would sound to us like a cross between the English spoken in Cornwall and Dallas; the accent has changed more in British English than in much of American. Even at the time of the American Revolution, educated speech in England fully pronounced “r” in all places, and King George III probably said after, ask, dance, glass, and path the same as George Washington did: with the same a as in hat and fat. The ‘ah’ pronunciation was considered low-class in England until after the Revolution.

Along with pronunciation, word use in the two countries began to differ. Bill Bryson, in Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, lists a number of words the English have left in the dustbin but Americans have kept using, including cabin, bug, hog, deck (of cards), junk, jeer, hatchet, slick, molasses, cesspool, trash, chore, and mayhem, American uses of gotten as a past participle of get, fall to mean autumn, mad to mean angry, and sick to mean more generally ill, which came from England but fell out of favour in the native land.


There are other language courses to choose from in this world so there is no reason to force a US company (and all those who use it) to preferentially present UK English.


Who said preferentially?

A choice would be a good thing. That was what most of the above posters asked for.

As it is, I got sick of doing three way translations including new Americanisms I didn't know, so have abandoned Duolingo and gone for a different paid course that does British. Memrise.

I can now unfollow this pointless conversation, because Duolingo is American and uses American and will not change unless enough people leave it.


Who said preferentially?

Lots of people on this thread, and on this site have said it should be the standard (with maybe some US answers being accepted). Just a few samples of the very many:

And one of my personal faves that I have come across on Duo:

Well, what does it matter? You have left Duolingo over the fact that it is not British enough. Though you stayed long enough to point that out rather hypocritically. :D

Duo is US. Canada is part of America, as is Guyana (also English speaking) and then all the other countries in America.

How's it going BTW on getting the EU to change... :) :)


Ignoring your trolling, save for receiving the occasional email to say there was a reply on this thread, I too gave up on Duolingo long ago. There were a couple reasons for this, but the lack of support for British English was one of them.

This is supposed to be a league learning service, it should not matter where the company is based or how widely any language is spoken. If it were it would be teaching Mandarin Chinese speakers to speak Mandarin Chinese.

Learning does not work though when you expect people to understand a third language (American English) and have to translate everything to that first. It presupposes an understanding that might not exist, and adds an extra level of complication that undermines any attempt to retain one new language when you have to add terms from a second.

I joined to learn Swedish, most everyone in Sweden speak English. And there are more people living in the London metropolitan area than there are Swedish speakers in the world. No one would argue that Swedish should not be taught because of some spurious argument about percentages.

The idea of any business is to try and cater for everyone, especially one which "created Duolingo so that everyone could have a chance," and not just those in the Americas.


I just found this discussion while trying to figure out how to toggle to UK English! I assumed I would be able to do this, but apparently not. It's not a big problem - Duolingo in general is great, and most of my UK-isms are accepted. But it would be nice to have the option.


Don't more anglophone countries speak British style English anyway? I'm generalising a lot here and if people know otherwise then ok, but i listen to Australian radio a lot and their English seems very close to the kind I speak here in England. They say 'Chips' to mean 'fries' to give you one example. I imagine it is the same for New Zealand too. I think a lot of Commonwealth countries such as Aus, NZ and Canada also spell words like 'colour' and 'Apologise' the same as in British English.


Yes they do and translation of Welsh, into American English just doesn't cut it for me, when I'm trying to learn, we say thing's differently and very often have other meaning for English words.

[deactivated user]

    Just saying, in Canada we do spell some things like that, but other ones we spell the British way. For example "colour" is what most children are taught in kindergarten, but that kindergartner wouldn't go to the "peodiatrician" they would go to the "pediatrician".


    "Oe-" is used as a suffix and "ae" inside the word, and I am struggling to think of any counter examples right now as exceptions to that. So it is a paediatrician, who may want to check the child's oesophagus.


    Same thing happen with Spanish. They focus in latinamerica rather than Spanish from Europe.


    If it's a problem, it should be fixed


    That's because Duolingo is an American app. Although in Europe we learn British English in schools, so this is being very difficult also for me.


    The updated German course is really trying my patience when it comes to its use of English. For example 'stomach ache' is rejected, but 'stomachache' is accepted. Reading around revealed that the latter is the US usage. Other examples have popped up in the last couple of months since the update and it's making me reconsider my paid membership because of sheer frustration. I know that Duolingo is a US based product, but there are far more varieties of English than just US English. Please do something about this. Please.


    I've now made the decision to not renew my membership. It's just too infuriating. I will continue using the free version, but I can't justify spending money on something that is 'doing me head in'....


    British Accent is hard for me to listen lol. I learn American English.


    Agreed, it's really annoying when it wants me to say "the spring" rather than "spring" and it says "the fall" rather than Autumn and I would also epxect capitalisation for Fall anyway so it's doubly distracting! I shouldn't have to elarn American English just to learn German X(


    Yes it's like learning two languages at the same time. French and American English in my case. I am constantly hitting the feedback 'My answer should have been accepted' or what ever the wording is. There should be an option in the app to set which version of English you are a native speaker in and the app adapt to that.


    olmyster911- Although I agree with commenters who pointed out the burden on the webmaster, I take your point completely. I would be very frustrated also. British English and American English are not the same, as I learned as an American living 10 years in UK. Apart from the spelling, there is the problem of "pants" versus "trousers", and what does "fanny" really mean? (Uh, not that the latter is one I've encountered on DuoLingo).

    And, "rather" vs. "quite". And the meaning of "center lane", in the context of driving. Latter meaning is totally opposite in US and UK. And, resulted in, well, bad consequences when I was given this direction whilst driving.

    "Two countries divided by a common language"- irrc source of quote is Oscar Wilde, although not a Brit (Irish, I seem to remember).

    There really ought to be a site so that those from the US who go to live in the UK can master British English. ;)


    I'm glad an American can see that the two dialects use very different words! :)


    lol, indeed I can! Mind you, I would have never appreciated this had I not lived in the UK for 10 years. Took maybe 2 years for me to sort out the major differences. The "center lane" thing was the most memorable in terms of consequences. When I first arrived my Brit boyfriend "allowed" me to take his precious Dolomite Sprint out for a test drive. He was supervising me, to see if I would be allowed to drive it regularly (well, that was the unstated aim). When he told me to go to the "center lane", I used the only definition I knew- the US one. Which, immediately made him conclude I could not be trusted driving his car. I checked around with both Brits and other Americans there, and established that indeed the meanings were totally opposite. I eventually got to drive the Dolomite Sprint, under rather humbling conditions for him, but that's another story. And, I am a damn good driver. Passed the Brit Driving test on the first go.


    Haha, well done for finally getting it (:


    Oh yes! Kinda. Except the fact that I became the driver and he the passenger had nothing to do with my own actions. I was on a trip to the US at the time. I didn't celebrate the reasons this came to be, nor blame him. I tried to reassure him. Maybe you can read between the lines on this one. Nonetheless, it was very liberating for me to be able to drive the Sprint, not to ferry us back and forth to work at sedate speeds, but to take it out on my own to experience the joy of driving fast in a really responsive car.


    I'm curious, what does centre lane mean in America vs in England? In Australia if we said centre lane it would be the middle of 3 (or 5 on a big road) on the side of the road you are travelling on.


    I'm not sure why this is so confusing. Whenever duolingo says "English" it means "American English" and whenever it says "Portuguese" it means "Brazilian Portuguese" specifically.

    If you (log out) and open up http://www.duolingo.com you will notice that English has the American flag and Portuguese has the Brazilian flag. This website has chosen to target people in the Americas, but if you are not in that target and enjoy it, great!

    Now when Duolingo asks you to translate from language X into (American) English, and you type: "colour" how do possibly expect to get it correct? I speak and write American English; however, I am perfectly capable of using British English. If duolingo was a UK site, I would have no issue using British English.

    In short this has nothing to Duo with marking you as wrong for using your language, and everything to do with it as marking your incorrect for choosing to write you answer in a different dialect of English then it is asking you to do so in.


    You just answered your own question. It's confusing because it's not explicitly stated as being "Brazilian Portuguese", etc. Flags are also not a reliable thing to go by, as the Spanish taught here is the version spoken in Mexico, despite it showing the flag of Spain.


    People coming here to learn what's simply titled "Portuguese" aren't going to notice a year-old blog post.


    If you are suggesting duolingo should be more clear about it, I would not disagree. My point was the English dialect that duolingo operates under happens to be American English, thus marking uniquely British English words and grammer as incorrect is not some kind of personal attack like the original poster seems to think it is.


    This whole conversation made me laugh! I've gotten a few things wrong on the Spanish exercises, I'm sure it would be really difficult to have every popular word in use made acceptable. The fact is that spaniards understand Latin Americans and I usually understand the Brits! So learn some new words!


    Oh dear it is a shame, sad it touches a nerve. I do really think Duo, who have every right to keep it all US English, are trying to be inclusive, and incorporate as much British English as possible along the way. It isn't a big issue for me. Sorry so many people have been upset


    Fundamentally, there are languages with significant regional variants. This is less of an issue in the language learning section, where, if you get dinged for a difference in vocabulary or spelling, you can submit it for consideration as legitimate. To my mind, it’s more of an issue in the translations, where there is one ‘language’ translation available. I have been engaged with British versus American usage tugs-of-war on a few occasions where the proper answer is providing a way for users to flag their switch as regionally determined. I’m only tagged as an English speaker, not as an American English speaker. how can a British way of writing a date in an article be more or less correct than an American one? We can squabble about which has more users till we’re blue in the face. The simple truth is that either variant has more users than MANY primary languages around the world. their distinctions need room to be recognized and independently appreciated. It will also help us learn where we might get into hot water in communicating with one another...


    oh i really want duolingo to letus learn the british accent i am only part british and i know here is prnouced heeuh


    while the difference between the spelling of color and colour may be trivial, the fact the word power-point is not accepted for what american english speakers call an outlet drives me mental. In Australia you would never hear outlet- an outlet is a kind of clearance store here. Its not about which variety of english is better, its about not being told the way certain countries speak english is wrong. (for the most part, Australian English is just identical to GB English)


    I find it really annoying, whenever I use British spelling or word, that duolingo suggests the American spelling or word as an alternative. It doesn't do it the other why round. This is utterly superfluous. I speak British English and am here to learn Italian, not American English. What use is it to me that Americans say "pants" where I say "trousers"?

    I have absolutely nothing against American English and I do not advocate that anyone use British English, I just react allergically to the idea that phrases from the one should be suggested as a correct alternative when I have clearly chosen to use the other.

    Despite this annoyance, I love duolingo and am very grateful for all the hard work that has gone into making it possible.


    I'm glad I found this thread and that it's still alive so that I don't feel weird responding. It has been bothering me for ages that if I use British spelling I am given an "also correct , ", but if I use American spelling it's just "correct". I'd love to see the "also correct when American spelling is used, because so many Americans do not seem to be aware of the situation. I thought, before I make a new post about it I should see whether one already exists, lol.

    [deactivated user]

      Not anymore, but yes. Sentences should be in the original English. The same with Spanish. The recordings are made by Latin Americans.


      This annoys me so much as well. And when you learn Spanish, they teach you mostly American Spanish.


      eh, I'm Canadian. I use Canadian English, which is a mix of British English and American English.

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