Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"Football" or "Soccer": Is British or American English more popular in Singapore?

While Singapore officially uses British English, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew felt that "the increasing dominance of the American media means that increasingly our people, teachers and students will be hearing the American version". American English is used widely, on the media and even on our spellcheckers. As a result, do people in Singapore spell using American English or some mix, rather than British English?

To test this, I examined Google searches done within Singapore, and focused on words which are spelt differently by the two forms of English. For example, the British use "labour", while the Americans use "labor". If the British version is more popular in Singapore, people are more likely to use "labour" than "labor" when searching for information on Google.

Here, I've plotted the frequency of search terms over time (2004 - present) in the charts below. The blue lines and bars refer to the British spelling of the word, while the red ones represent the American version. For instance, the first chart, which compares "labour" against "labor", shows that the British spelling is more frequently used.

Labour vs Labor
Labour vs Labor

Cheque vs Check
A narrower fight here, but the British version is slightly more preferred to the American version.
Cheque vs Check ("bank" was added for greater context)


Learnt vs Learned
Apparently both versions are acceptable in both American and British spelling, but the Brits prefer "learnt" and "spelt", while the Americans prefer "learned" and "learned". The counts are very close here, so I'd call this a draw.
Learnt vs Learned

Licence vs License
The Americans score their first point, with "license" clearly the more popular choice than "licence".
Licence vs License

Catalogue vs Catalog
Both terms were equally used almost ten years back, but sometime in 2007 the British version gained popularity.
Catalogue vs Catalog

Litre vs Liter
Brit.
Litre vs Liter

Organisation vs Organization
Interestingly, "organization" was the original version in Britain, and is still used by some (Oxford English) British English users. We have our second draw here.
Organisation vs Organization

Travelling vs Traveling

Visually, you would barely notice the absent "l", so I guess the Americans saved themselves of typing an extra letter. Nonetheless, the Brit version is preferred in Singapore.
Travelling vs Traveling

Grey vs Gray
The Brit spelling has no doubt become more popular due to a certain book and movie.

Grey vs Gray


Football vs Soccer
Last, but certainly not least, we have the most popular sport in Singapore. The British version is slightly preferred over the American one. Given the popularity of English Premier League, the Football Association of Singapore, and the Football Manager video game, I'm surprised why "football" isn't more popular than it is.
Football vs Soccer
Summary
Of the 10 words examined, the majority are more frequently spelt in British English, rather than American English. It looks like British English is not only official in name, but also in practice for most part, in Singapore.

2 comments:

  1. As an American I can say that they are rather different languages. At this article are mentioned more example of words with differentiate these two languages. I think that soon we will not understand each other at all.

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