Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The jewel of language

By Kirsten Nour Namskau

I have lived in USA, New Zealand, been in close friendship with people from United Kingdom, travelled around the world using “English” as my language and even been an English teacher . . .
When I worked as an English teacher, I followed strictly the language used in the books at the place I was at the moment. (Whatever kind of English that was.)
When I am myself . . . I assume I am using a mix of all the kind of English existing.
Because English is not always English.
In the schools in Scandinavia they use Oxford English books, but it is seldom the teacher is native English speaking, so the accent is not always correct.
Other places in the world, they use local English books . . . also here in Egypt, and the quality of the books is extremely poor, some schools even make their own books. (What I call “pigeon-English” books.)
The English they speak in Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand is different than the English in England, although it sounds the same for an untrained ear.
They can have the same words, but sometimes the word has different meaning, depending on where you are.
Per example: The word satisfaction in England ~ means a grate joy and pleasure . . . But in USA, the word is mostly used in connection with sexual excitement.
In UK. One can say: “He is gone.” (Meaning . . . he is not around.) In US. This sentence would mean that the man is dead.
I have two dictionaries on my PC . . . English UK. ~ and ~ English US.
Depending on which dictionary is in use, I get corrected differently . . .
Like per example: color / colour ~ favor / favour ~ endeavor / endeavour ~ ~ ~
Some places the most correct is to say: “ I shall go home.” Other places they say: “I will go home.” Again, other places the most correct is to say: “I have to go home.”
This has also something to do with dialects.
What is correct language? All the time people want to correct me and every time, I get more and more messed up, because they correct me into a local dialect.
That one is native speaking doesn’t always mean one is excellent in the language grammatically or orthographic.
I have worked with English teachers from UK. Who didn’t know how to inflect the word teach. (Teach ~ taught ~ taught) They said : “teach ~ teached ~ teached.”
In Scandinavia have met teachers who didn’t know how to inflect the word “to shine” in the Scandinavian language . . . Å skinne – skinner – skinte . . . They said : ” Å skinne – skant – skunne.”
Like as well did they not know if the word “boot” in Scandinavian language was støvel or stølve. (The correct is støvel.)
I know I am not perfect in the language. Some tell me I speak very good American language, some compliment me with very good English language, some say my language is not good enough.
I myself feel, as I am here in Egypt for several years now, my English goes to the worse by time, because one have to speak so people understand you, and in this country that means . . . “ I speak English the very best not. I come to work by lack. The shop is open up-side-down. “
Meaning: “My English is not very good. I like my job. The shop is open 24 hours.”
And . . . we say: “Happy New Year” the whole year.


hammer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
hammer said...

I think the people correcting you might have parental role issues.

L>T said...

Hi! I think your blog is very nice, too. thought provoking. I like that. I also like the picture of the guy with his balls hanging out! i might steal that one.
re: speaking english. You know in the blogshpere it doesn't really matter how well a person speaks a language, only that they can communicate what they want to get across.

MrsJoseGoldbloom said...

I understand you quite well Kirsten. Hey as long as you're getting your point across what's the difference. :)

Anonymous said...

"I speak English the very best not. I come to work by lack. The shop is open up-side-down. “
Meaning: “My English is not very good. I like my job. The shop is open 24 hours.”
And . . . we say: “Happy New Year” the whole year."

I like this the best! LOL

Personally, I think I can read and understand well. But I have slight difficutty in speaking it well, and I'm one of those who can not understand accents.

Over at Singapore, we speak with a mixture of languages. We use English, Mandarin, Mandarin dialets, Malay, Tamil. A simple sentance can compromise most of it inside. We call it Singlish. Though the government is not promoting it, living in a multi-racial country, it's hard to give it up.


Anonymous said...

Kirsten, I use Wordweb which is free.
Firefox 2 has a built in spell checker.
I also check my grammar using Microsoft Word. That's just my choice, nobody compels us to be perfect. I understand you and never have the urge to correct you. I can always gauge the depth of your emotion by the number of errors in your writing. BTW, my wife is from Slovakia and she speaks perfect English but when she writes something it is badly spelt and grammatically incorrect. This prevents her from blogging and commenting on blogs. I wish she had your courage. :)

Kirsten N. Namskau said...

Lexcen: Thank you. Yes you know, when you get carried away by emotion, you forget both spelling and grammar.
You should see when i got the manuscript of my book back the first time from editor. GEEZZ... I thought, have I ever been an English teacher!!!

curmudgeon said...

It is a weakness of the other person when they feel compelled to correct someone.
You are doing just fine here. :)

k said...

Excuse me, but if you don't mind my asking, how many languages do you speak? And in what order did you learn them?

I'm curious because my SO - he's from Bratislava, Slovakia - speaks some 7-14 languages. It's interesting to me to hear from others about his proficiency in the different ones, as he uses them. Or loses them!

Anonymous said...

hehe, I think I understand what you're saying.

During my early school years I spent 1.5 years in Brazil being taught by a UK english trained teacher, then spent 1 year in Arizona.

When I moved back to Canada I was told I had a Portuguese, UK English, Southern US, & Western Canadian accent rolled into one. I was really strange sounding! Even to this day, over 20 years later, little bits creep in & out, even in my writing & grammar!

btw, lost all my Portuguese vocabulary but still have dreams in it sometimes which is very odd!

Kirsten N. Namskau said...

K: I will tell you the truth. Originally I come from Norway and in Norway it is a rule for who shall know what and how much. I once came with in a TV-contest named "Double or quit" After this contest it was decided by the Norwegian mafia (government) that I knew too much and spoke to many languages. (At that time I spoke 12 languages) They did it under the words; “It was not necessary to walk around as a living encyclopedia or dictionary”. . . It supposes to be to my best to reduce my knowledge and numbers of languages. So by force, I was taken to hospital and got brainwashed. They also removed the part of the brain that holds the languages. Afterwards, I almost could not even speak my native language. (This has happened to many people in Norway.) But the strange part is that where-ever I am on earth, if I come in an emergency or special need of being understood I speak the language fluently.
If you want to know more of what is going on in the democratic paradise Norway and what more they are doing to the people in the name of democracy, you can read my book; “Tell Me Who I Am” ISBN: 18440 17370

infinitesimal said...

What up K-Dog? What it be like? I's jes stone cold chillin' ...Word

So you only been livin' in Egypt for a minute? I feel you, givin' a shout-out to your other digs. I need to catch some shut-eye, needs my 40 winks you know to be fresh and clean when I peep the Lakota dance show at the civic center tomorrow on the PM. Y'heard?

Just messin' wit ya. I come back and translate for you and yo' peeps in a minute...

k said...

Thank you Kirsten. What a strange and awful story! I am very curious about your book and want to read it, but it may take me a little while to get my hands on one. I'm kind of...cash-challenged at the moment. But we have excellent libraries where I live so maybe I'll get lucky there.

I hope your life is better now and that you are safe. As safe as any of us can be, anyway.

Keep writing. I love your blog.