This is a fascinating article. Or at least it’s fascinating to me, since I’m always interested in the various dialects–or in this case, reinventions–of English. All dialects of English (or any other language, for that matter) has differences that make it unique to that region. But to see this variation of English that’s combining other languages much more heavily to create a new language–I haven’t seen that before or seen it explained before as it is in this article. I’ve seen this sort of thing when reading Facebook posts from friends who are in either India or the Phillipines, mixing English with other languages. Those posts would never make sense to me, but they evidently do to the speakers in those countries. Even in North American English (meaning in American and Canadian English), we definitely have words that come from our Spanish-speaking and French-speaking neighbors as part of our vocabulary, as well as several words from Irish Gaelige, Dutch, and other languages that have blended into our own, but not so much that it’s a true variation like what’s explained here.
Is this the evolution of a new language? Or is the Singaporan hierarchy correct that “Singlish” and “English” are not the same, and try to maintain English as a primary, structured language? It’s a hard call to me. On one hand, this seems like a natural evolution. But at the same time, when trying to educate children to communicate in school and in business outside of Singapore, something closer to some sort of standard English will help them out more.
What do you think? Read the article, and include your comments below.
As someone who thinks that she missed her calling by not studying and getting degrees in linguistics, I find this a fascinating little five minute video history of why English has more than one word for many verbs and nouns. It’s said that English is complicated because of instances like this, but perhaps it’s actually richer for it.
What do you think of this video? Include your comments below.
I apologize for not writing for quite a long time. I hadn’t realized how long it had been! I’ve been really busy all these weeks, deep in my professional work, my volunteer work, and working on me. It’s always tougher once the school year starts! My professional work is taking up a lot of energy these days, which is good only because it means that I’m deep into doing what I enjoy–working with content.
About a month ago, I went for Adobe CQ training. The company where I consult is using it to build and manage its new external website, and I’ve been included in the project! It’s a big step up for me, because I’ve been limited to internal sites until now. Having the chance to learn a new CMS, work on the external site, and work on a high-profile section of the external site is a big deal. The training was great, and all those who attended the training were rather excited to use Adobe CQ over the painfully clunky in-house CMS that we’ve been using (and will still have to use for internal sites for a while to come, so I’ll have to use both).
At the training, the trainer was from France, and we had another content strategist who was from the Brazil office. Both spoke fluent English. Over the course of the two days, I got to know both of them well (it was a small training group), and we talked about languages extensively. One of the interesting things about the company I work for is that it is a German company that is having its 150th anniversary this year, so you’d think that the official language of the company would be German. WRONG. Surprisingly enough, the official language of the company is English. When I found that out, I was surprised. And while there will be a German language website, as well as ones in Spanish, Portugese, and Chinese, in the breakdown of the new external websites, more areas would have an English website or translated English website option. Again, this surprised me a little–not that this is a bad thing. It works in my favor since my native language is English, after all.
In talking to the trainer from France, she said that the consultantcy she works for has her based at one of my company’s offices in Germany, so she usually commutes to Germany via a four-hour train trip, stays up there for four days, and then comes home on the weekends during this particular project. When she is in Germany, she speaks in English with the people in that German office. When she trained people on Adobe CQ in the German offices, she did her training in English. When she trained in Shanghai–her stop before the US–she did it in English. She said she took this job because it was in English, even though her native language is French, because it gave her an opportunity to use her second language and improve her fluency.
The fellow from Brazil was so fluent with an American accent that I almost thought he was an American of Brazilian descent who moved to South America. His English was impeccable, and he made so few pronunciation mistakes, that he reminded me of my husband’s accent, which is almost perfect, but there’s still a little something lingering there if you listen VERY carefully.
So, all this got me to thinking about conversations that have been going around in the last year or two about localization and the perception of English being the main language of the Internet, which are topics that have written about before. The impression I’ve been getting through many of the tech comm conversations has been that we should not assume that everyone is learning English, fluent in English even as a second language, and that English is not taking over as the predominant language it’s alluded to be. The message is that we need to neutralize the English we have because most of the world does not speak English, and this action will help with translation. That all makes sense to me. What makes things confusing to me is the implication that English should back off from trying to be the “international” language because perhaps it should be Chinese, or Spanish, or some other language that more populations speak, or that we need to concentrate more on making translation and localization work. I understand that implication as well, and generally I back that notion.
Perhaps my company is a rare case in that the official language of the company is something other than what the native language of where it’s located is. I remember a year or two ago reading about a company in Japan that was making all its employees–down to the mailroom and custodial staff–learn English at the company. The company I work for has been around for 150 years in Germany, so you’d think that there would be a lot of bilingual people in order to work between two continents, but that it would not be Anglo-centric, but rather German-centric. Yet, that’s not the case. I don’t know why they decided that, but it really got me to thinking. If one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world, based out of Germany, has its official language as English, what does that really say? Is English really the predominant “international” language after all? Are there other global companies that are following suit? What does that mean for international English, or for that matter localization and translation efforts? Are we going to end up in a world like in Firefly where everyone spoke both English and Chinese, and no other languages?
I suppose it’s simply my own perception that sees it as confusing. On one hand, we’re being told to embrace other languages and appreciate the translation and localization process for the sake of understanding that English is not the predominant global language we think it is, and then on the other hand, we see proof that global corporations are shifting towards more English or predominant English usage. Did I read or encounter these companies as exceptions, or is this becoming the rule?
What are your thoughts? Post in the comments below, and let me know what you think.
Content Rules Inc. was kind enough to extend their invitation to have me blog for them again. This time, it’s on a subject that’s near and dear to their hearts as well as mine.
This article talks about my own personal experiences in trying to use standardized language. Whether you use standardized language in your personal or professional life, it’s something that one needs to keep in mind as a writer, especially when writing for a global audience, and even more so if you are writing for a digital format that is easily accessed through the Internet. It’s not easy to do, but it’s something that should be tucked in the back of every writer’s brain.