Varieties of English
English is - like German or Chinese - a pluricentric language.
This basically means, that there exists more than one version of
standard English: British English and American English are well
known. Canadian English, Australian English and New Zealandian English
are important standard varieties as well.
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English speaking counries!
'The English languages'
Famous linguist David Crystal puts it like this: "Experts
on English these days are fond of the unexpected plural: We find
books and articles talking about 'the English languages' or 'the
new Englishes'. What they are emphasizing is the remarkable variety
which can be observed in the way sounds, spellings, grammar and
vocabulary are used within the English speaking world." (Crystal,
The English language)
What sounds like linguistic hairsplitting actually has a reverberation
into real life. Those varieties are not considered to be dialects,
but are equally correct.
Therefore, American English spelling 'theater' and British English
spelling 'theatre' are both acceptable in most contexts, even academic
exams and legal agreements. However, beware of switching!
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States, Great Britain,
Canada, Malta, Australia
or New Zealand!