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BBC – Culture – The language the government tried to suppress

Most of Singapore’s population speak the unofficial language or dialect known as Singlish. But why would the government rather it went away? James Harbeck takes a look.

Source: BBC – Culture – The language the government tried to suppress

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.

–TechCommGeekMom

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BBC – Culture – Why is Canadian English unique?

America’s neighbour resisted annexation by the US and its people remained subjects of the British monarch. But Canada’s English isn’t British or American, writes James Harbeck.

Source: BBC – Culture – Why is Canadian English unique?

Happy Canada Day! I was happy to see this article that is appropriate for this day, and see that it’s addressed. Americans often don’t realize how much Canada directly affects much of our culture. Some of our favorite actors, actresses, comedians, and musicians come from Canada. I swear that most of the HGTV channel’s programming comes from Canada! And there are a LOT of Canadian members of the STC, including our immediate past president, Bernard Aschwanden.

Canadian is a unique form of English. As the article says, it’s not quite British or American, yet there are elements of both. Perhaps the North American standard should not be US American, but Canadian as a bow to both of the main two dialects usually taught? Great article.

What do you think of this article? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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IDW looks like an awesome event–can’t wait to go!

"It's just a dream to go to Information Development World, so I can learn more about content strategy! C'mon gang, let's go!" says Barbie.
“It’s just a dream to go to Information Development World, so I can learn more about content strategy! C’mon gang, let’s go!” says Barbie.

Last year, I was really disappointed that I couldn’t go to the inaugural Information Development World (IDW) conference in San Jose, CA.  I knew, since it’s produced by The Content Wrangler and Content Rules, that it would be a top-notch event. After reading all the reviews and commentary from my friends and content strategy colleagues about how great the event was, I was even more disappointed that I wasn’t able to go.

But it’s different this year! This year, I’M GOING! I’m pretty excited about this, because I know this is a conference that is definitely geared towards content strategists who are like me–someone who not only does content strategy, but also does content management, web design, user strategy, works with customer experience, and has a love of localization and globalization issues as well. Of course, the event is also covering other topics like content marketing, data and analytics, digital publishing,  and content engineering. The point of this conference is to help those who touch content in any way, shape, or form and want to enhance the customer experience through content experiences.  Sounds like my kind of conference, as if it was custom-made for someone like me who is still building her content-based career!

I like that there are several workshops and presentations–80 in all–to choose from. I’m sure there will the dilemma of which ones to choose at a given time slot! While looking at the IDW schedule as it’s posted at this writing, there are several sessions I will have a hard time deciding between that I’d really like to see. For example, how does one decide between Work Smarter Not Harder – Remove the Guesswork from Content Creation and By the Numbers: Making the Case for Reuse Based on Facts during the same time slot? Or how can this former Barbie aficianado miss the Mattel Case Study: Maintaining Barbie’s Brand Fidelity Region to Region presentation?  I know I’ll have to make some tough decisions between a lot of excellent topics that I’d really like to learn more about. The fortunate thing for all those who attend is that this group of presenters is the “cream of the crop”. I’ve seen several of the presenters and workshop instructors in action before, so I know that this will be time well-spent, and I will come home with my head buzzing with many great ideas and new concepts to digest!

The main focus of IDW is customer-centric–which is something that will help a lot of information developers. Having originally come from a customer service/client services background before I entered the IT/techcomm world, I tend to have a better understanding than most people, so it comes a little more naturally to me. Today, content strategy really is all about personalization and making content speak to customers in a way that it feels like the content is talking to each customer specifically. That’s not an easy task. The goal of IDW is to help everyone get a much better understanding of how this is done, and how to make it work most efficiently so that content works for you, not against you. How could you not want to learn about that?

I’m not going to miss out this year. I’m going, and it would take a lot to stop me from going. There’s too much to learn and great content strategists to meet–why would I pass this up again? I’m not making the same mistake twice! It’s a fantastic investment in ME and what I can bring to my clients.

Have you registered for IDW yet? If so, great! If not, what are you waiting for? Register today!

You can find out more about IDW by visiting their website at www.informationdevelopmentworld.com

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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.