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No wonder English is confusing, Part 2

As a follow-up to my fun post, “No Wonder (Verbal) English is confusing!“, here’s a follow-up that really shows how crazy it can get. Although I think in the end, there is some (okay, a lot of) Celtic actually thrown in there rather than simply English spoken with a Scottish brogue, it proves that even in the United Kingdom–other than Wales who definitely have their own language with Welsh–that English is NOT the same everywhere. Here to prove that is Karen Gillam, who played Amy Pond on Doctor Who.

Enjoy!

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No wonder (verbal) English is confusing!

I’ve been seeing a lot of videos about various accents in the English language lately, and it makes me think that I must have missed some sort of calling to be a linguist. I find it all fascinating! But in watching these two videos about how to do an American accent (from a British perspective) and hearing several UK dialects (that all sound like music to this set of American ears), it’s no wonder that between various vocabularies and actual different sounds in pronunciation that things can get confusing when trying to figure out a way to create a “standardized English”. (And this isn’t even including other dialects around the world!)

Take a listen here– Enjoy! (I’ll be working on some of my British accents. I think I have the Northern Irish/Southern Irish one down, kind of, due to mimicking family relations. 😉 )

How To Do An American Accent

One Woman, 17 British Accents

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What have you got against adverbs? What did they ever do to you?

loudI’ve noticed a disturbing trend that seems to be happening in the English language–at least in American English. Every time I heard this mistake, I cringe and wonder why it’s happening.

Evidently, people are not using adverbs correctly anymore. I keep hearing the “-ly” dropped from words in sentences often, and it makes me wonder why this is happening. Is it a lack of proper verbal education–not being taught to speak properly? Is it ignorance? Or is it part of an evolutionary process occurring in American English? (I haven’t noticed it when listening to British English on British television shows, which is why I think it might only be in the United States.)

Let me use some of the sentences that I’ve used above as examples, in which I’ll drop the “-ly” from the descriptor of the verb in the sentence.

“Evidently, people are not using adverbs correct anymore….Is it a lack of proper verbal education–not being taught to speak proper?”

See what I mean? This bothers me to no end, because I’m starting to see it in written English too, and, well…

IT’S NOT CORRECT!!

Perhaps I watch too much reality television that shows under-educated people who aren’t exactly the living examples of academia or professionalism. Even so, while I’ve noticed this trend in the past few years, it seems like it’s getting worse.  Is this evidence of the decay of American education? Perhaps.  I can tell you that being the “grammar police” of my household, this is always a concern to me. I want to make sure that my son speaks well and properly as he grows up and makes his way into the world. 

While I was writing this, it occurred to me that there is another consideration with this phenomenon related to technical communication.  This lack of correct adverb use can greatly affect translation and localization efforts. A huge issue that I’ve been hearing in tech comm is the need to write more clearly and in plain language to aid in better translation for localization.  If adverbs are not used correctly, how does that translate? In some languages, it might not matter, since some languages don’t use adverbs the same way English does. But most languages that I’ve ever encountered (and I’ve studied four, but far from mastered any of them) always had adverbs. Adverbs are simply proper grammar! So if improper grammar was used in a document, how would that reflect on the writer and the establishment the writer represented?

I implore my fellow technical communicators to please advocate for the adverb! Please make sure that adverbs are used properly, both in written and spoken language. We need to make corrections to preserve this important part of speech. Save the adverb!

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Is English an International Language? – Part 2

UK vs US peepsEarlier this year, I was asked by the STC-PMC to write a two-part article about the differences and similarities between American and British English.  Part 1 was published in February.  Today, I happily saw that the second part was published in the STC-PMC bi-monthly newsletter.

To find the original article, see the March/April 2013 edition of the STC-PMC Newsletter here.

The article itself is below.


Is English an International Language?
Part 2

David Crystal, author of English as a Global Language, has said that in the pursuit of a World Standard Spoken English (WSSE), American English seems to be the most influential in its development, as American grammar is now starting to influence contemporary British usage.  He also discusses at length how different dialects will allow national and international intelligibility to start developing. He said, “If WSSE emerges as the neutral global variety in due course, it will be make redundant the British/American distinction. British and American English will still exist, of course, but as varieties expressing national identity in the UK and the USA.

Edmund H. Weiss, the author of The Elements of International English Style, also points out that there is clash when trying to come up with a standard version of English, namely between “…globalization, producing a one-size-fits-all solution for a diverse world of English speakers, versus localization, adapting and modifying this universal model for particular readers in particular locales.”  Where English is a second language, Weiss demonstrates, the idioms and figures of speech end up resembling the language structure of the native language. Because of there are about 400 million native English speakers, and about a billion people who speak it as a second language or as a foreign language (for business or a profession), the importance of clear, unambiguous communication is undeniable.

There are many great resources available about this conundrum that can help put everything in perspective, especially in a world in which the Internet is starting to spread the use of English more and more all the time. Some good ones include:

Recent Articles:
Internet + English= Netglish
Learning English online: How the Internet is changing language
Tongue and Tech: the Many Emotions from Which English Has No Words

Books:
·         Do’s and Taboos of Using English Around the World by Roger E. Axtell
·         Divided by a Common Language: A Guide to British and American English by Christopher Davies
·         The Elements of International English Style: A Guide to Writing Correspondence, Reports, Technical Documents, and Internet Pages for a Global Audience by Edmond H. Weiss
·         English as a Global Language by David Crystal
·         Brit-Think, Ameri-Think by Jane Walmsley

Podcast:
·         International English by Danielle M. Villegas at https://soundcloud.com/techcommgeekmom/international-english

So, what’s a technical writer supposed to do? The best thing to do is to be exceedingly careful of using slang or idioms that relate to one’s native English, and be aware of local usage used on a global scale. This isn’t an easy task at all, yet it’s an important consideration when translating English into another language, let alone trying to write for English speakers globally.

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Is English an International Language? – Part 1

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English: Hypothetical flag quartering the Brit...
English: Hypothetical flag quartering the British and American flags. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I mentioned a while ago that I had several writing projects that were coming up, and the first of them is now published! I was asked by the STC-PMC to write a two-part article about the differences and similarities between American and British English. Of course, I think there’s much more to that simple debate, and this is a favorite topic of mine, so I gladly accepted the challenge. The bigger challenge was to try not to write an entire book!

To find the original article, see the January/February 2013 edition of the STC-PMC Newsletter here.

The article itself is below:


Is English an International Language?
Part 1

Is English an international language? Yes…and no. There is no question that English is a predominant global language. Half the world’s technical and scientific periodicals are written in English, as is eighty percent of the information stored in the world’s computers. There is no question that English is the most prominent language on the Internet, which has contributed to its continued spread around the world.

However, among English speakers, there can be huge differences, as if English speakers from different countries actually spoke different languages. The argument is often made that those who speak English do speak the same base language with just a few different spellings or colloquial idioms now and then. This is only partially true. While most of the world thinks of English in terms of American or British English, there’s also Canadian, Indian, Australian, New Zealander and South African versions of English to consider among others. Each version of English has further nuances that distinguish itself from another version. For the most part, an Australian can understand a South African, an American can understand a New Zealander, and someone from India can understand someone from the UK. But there will be moments that any one of those speakers could elicit a bewildered “EH?” amongst themselves in understanding.

Since most countries that speak English as the dominant language or a second language are former British colonies or Commonwealth countries, British English is usually the standard taught in schools. The exception to this, of course, is American English, which is usually taught in the United States and much of Central and South America as a second language. Even so, between American and British English, one would think that with a few small exceptions, they are essentially the same language, right?

What many Americans don’t realize is that British English has enough nuances that in several cases, we can’t understand our British brethren, and vice versa. For example, if a person came up to you in London and mentioned that he had a mate who sold so many crisps from his lorry that the crisps were falling out the boot and bonnet, would you know what that person meant? If you’ve watched a lot of BBC America or read enough books from the UK (as I have), then you might. An American would have to translate what the Londoner said, which was that he had a buddy who sold potato chips out of his truck, and the chips were falling out of the trunk and hood. Another example would be that if an American said that he would lose his pants over a financial deal, a Brit would misunderstand it to mean that the American would be losing his underwear over the deal, as “pants” is used to refer to underwear instead of “trousers” in the UK. Those are just two of many examples of how Brits and Americans don’t necessarily understand each other.

This divide is an important consideration in technical communications. Single-sourcing and translation are a large and continually growing component of technical communications. While software is becoming more intuitive about translating written content into different languages, it’s not flawless. Using a standard commonality in the language would be desired as a result.


See the March/April issue for Part 2.