Magazine topic: 
Life around the world
Total votes: 103

The many faces of English

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by : 
FionaMcF

Did you know that English is the third most spoken language in the world?  Probably.  You may even have heard of the variation that exists within the English language and the different cultures associated with it. It can be really hard to get your head around!

At the start of October, I started work in the eastern French region of Franche-Comté. This is the first time I’ve worked at a school large enough to accommodate not one, but two English language assistants.

My hometown is Stirling in Scotland. My fellow assistant hails from New Delhi in India.  We come from countries that are 700 miles apart and our backgrounds could not be more different, but we speak the same language!

These first two weeks have been extremely interesting for both the two of us and our secondary school pupils. For instance, I’ve discovered that, while Indian English is based on British English, my Indian colleague uses some American words like chips instead of crisps. When she phones home, she speaks Hinglish – a mixture of Hindi and English, the two official national languages in India.

There are more than just linguistic differences, however! While in the UK most young people leave home when they are around 18 years old, in India they often stay at home until they are married. She’s getting married in India in the Easter holidays. After she’s married, she’ll live with her husband and his parents.

She’d never heard of the celebration Guy Fawkes Night, when British people enjoy bonfires and fireworks to commemorate Guy Fawkes’ failure to blow up the British Parliament on 5th November 1605. I’ve also introduced her to classic British comedy series such as Fawlty Towers and Monty Python, which she now loves as much as I do!

In turn, she’s taught me about Indian festivals I’d never heard of, like Raksha Bandhan. Raksha Bandhan celebrates love and duty between brothers and sisters. Sisters tie a sacred thread called a rakhi on their brothers’ wrists.

Next, she’s planning to show me Bollywood films. I did some Bollywood dance at university, but am ashamed to admit that I’ve never seen a Bollywood film!                   

Discussion

Do you find learning about language variety and culture in different English-speaking countries interesting?         

Comments

Elsa007's picture
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Elsa007 23 October, 2015 - 13:52

Yes, very much! The other day, my cousin living in the UK told me an interesting story. When she met three British who come from Scotland, Northern England and Ireland, she could hardly understand what they were speaking. But finally, when the Irishman imitated American's way of speaking, which was really good, she could understand the language he was speaking!! She said she found the difference very interesting!
Basically, I think language we speak is a part of one's identity which not surprisingly varies! :)
Hi, Giang, the saying you quoted reminded me of this: "It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advance" Do you know whose speech this is? Did you see the film?

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FionaMcF's picture
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FionaMcF 6 December, 2015 - 19:50

Hello!

Elsa007: Thanks for reading my first blog and for your story about your cousin!

Despite the fact that the countries in the UK are not very big, there's a lot of linguistic variation there (different accents and dialects). I sound quite different from some of my Scottish friends! People often talk about one "British" accent, by which they mean Queen's English, or RP (Received Pronunciation). When you actually meet someone from the UK or travel there, you'll see (or hear, really!) that the vast majority of people in the UK don't sound like that.

Also, it's not all about accents. In Scotland, we have a variety of English that is known as "Scottish Standard English", which has some different words and grammatical rules. For instance, once I asked an English friend, "Do these clothes need washed?" and she didn't understand what I'd asked at first! In English, you usually have to say either "Do these clothes need a wash?" or "Do these clothes need washing?" What do you think of that?

Fiona

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gianggiang's picture
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gianggiang 24 October, 2015 - 07:02

Abraham Lincoln- the great American president .Right ?
I feel very ashamed after reading the saying, it is beyond my knowledge. I mean, his saying is grandiose whereas my saying is .......I have never think about grandiose things like that..And..... I feel quite disappointed when someone isn't proud of their country. My saying only reminds everyone to love and contribute to developing their countries.
By the way, I haven't seen the film.
......I have seen golden flowers on the green grass..............

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Elsa007's picture
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Elsa007 24 October, 2015 - 11:23

Bingo!
No no…giang, you don't have to feel ashamed at all!
We learned that famous speech just a couple of days ago from our history teacher, that's why your saying rang the bell! You know what, Lincoln was not good at speech and he made the script composed of just 10 sentences in a train. Despite all of that, Kennedy and Obama quoted his speech even in a century! That's really amazing, isn't it?
Yeah, I think your country is great and I know a lot of people admire the people because they are unbeaten! :))

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gianggiang's picture
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gianggiang 25 October, 2015 - 10:16

I believe( not think) that my country is great.
It is very interesting because your History classes inspired you much. I can imagine you are studying history classes eagerly and together discuss about amazing lessons.I also want to join in such great classes. In my class, students are so eager when they study scientific subjects that our teachers request to keep silent,but when we study History, Geography, Literature, we feel asleep and I guess that most of my classmates would take a nap if our teachers allowed us to do that. We study so silently that they always ask us: " Who can answer this question? Raise your hands,please.Say something,please" However, no one replies. The atmosphere is silent as if we were sitting in an important exam.
They are 45-minute classes but they seem to last 1 century.
Anyway, I only a very normal student in a normal shool. Education system of Singapore is very great. ( In Vietnam, there are also many high-quality schools but they are for rich people. I even don't dare to dream of being a student of those schools.

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Elsa007's picture
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Elsa007 26 October, 2015 - 02:56

Aha ha, I like your writing, particularly this expression: 'They are 45-minute classes but they seem to last 1 century.' !! You're funny, aren't you?! ;-)
Our geography and history teacher tell us a lot of stories which catch our interests, and so does our Literature teacher. We have a lot of writing assignments but I'm enjoying!
Elsa☆

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gianggiang's picture
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gianggiang 26 October, 2015 - 12:52

Literature ? When we learn Literature,my teacher asks us : " How do you feel about this poem ? Write your feeling on papers" You know, it is only a 20-word poem, if I write " This poem is very interesting, it inspired me much, I can imagine a beautiful picture and learn lessons about love, charity, hope, patriotism after reading this poem...." Sure, I will get zero mark. I don't know how students in your country write essays, but in Vietnam, we have to use 3 or 4 papers ( each paper has size 25cm * 17cm) to feel the beauty and the meaning of that poems. That's incredible! Even the author is also surprised about this !!
The is a funny saying : " Vietnamese students can become whoever they want:poetries, writers, mathematicians'', ''.Sometimes I feel that I am a parrot! How ashamed it is !

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gianggiang's picture
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gianggiang 23 October, 2015 - 06:48

Yes, It is interesting but I don't care about the difference between the UK and English speaking countries.
By the way, Hi sanpai28, you said that your education system was poor, well, I don't think so, It is great that you study subjects with English - this is a wonderful idea! In my opinion, some differences between English and American don't cause problems. I often learn English words without noticing if they are E or A.They are all the same to me. I also want to say that I never underestimate everything which relates to my country. I satisfy with our education system although I know it is not completely perfect. Both of us are very proud of our countries. There is a saying which is very well-known in Vietnam :" Never require much from your country, you should reflect on what you have done for your country to make it better."
Sanpai, anyway, your country is very great. I am happy if you can change something to make it more
perfect. Giang

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sanpai28's picture
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sanpai28 21 October, 2015 - 11:45

Yes, these are very interesting. Our country is not an English-speaking country but it is a very important language in our country. Our text books of subjects except our own language subject, are written in English. We students have to learn the subjects not with our national language but with English. And I found that The writing style in textbooks is a mixture of English and American! Even the textbook of English subject is mixed with American. That is a really really huge confusion for us,students. I will show a very clear example. In one paragraph that only contains about three sentences, there are two different spellings of the same word, "centre and center". This is only a fundamental child-play confusion. There are still so many many confusions for us about different spellings in same words. The teachers didn't explain to students that they are different because one is English spelling and another is American's. Maybe they don't know about this! And almost all students don't know that....they thought that difference was a typing error! And the teachers also said that if we the students wrote "center"in the text falsely to "centre" and "centre" in the text falsely to "center", we would lose points in the exam. !!! Oh my god! What's going on? The students should also decrease the points of teachers and persons who wrote the textbooks for their unqualification. I've got lucky because I already knew that different spelling between English and American because of my glance at dictionary and I was not afraid of losing marks as I know the truth. Our education system is poor.
And by the way, thanks for the learnenglishteens team for teaching the different words with same meaning between English and American like "chips and crisps" ,"refrigerator and fridge", "escalator and lift " etc. I hope that learnenglishteens team will upload more articles teaching words like those because I love to learn the difference words of same meaning between English and American. :)
With best wishes to all,

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FionaMcF's picture
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FionaMcF 6 December, 2015 - 19:38

Hi!

Thanks very much for reading my first blog and for your comment, which I found very interesting.

I can imagine it being confusing for you if your textbooks are a mix of British and American English. I think even a native speaker of English would be quite confused by that! Why do you think it's like that? Also, is English used for any other purpose in your country, or just in education? I'm afraid I know extremely little about Burma, but I'd love to learn more, as I'm sure we all would.

Your English seems excellent, so keep up the good work!

Fiona

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