My English is not your English
Is ‘disorientated’ a word? Ask someone from the USA, and they are likely to say no. But it’s absolutely correct in British English.
Languages change constantly and English is no exception. That causes confusion sometimes, and not just if you’re learning English as a foreign language. The variations of English which have developed in the USA, Canada and Australia have been around for some time. But other world regions have also developed their own brand of English. There are regional variations of English within the UK itself. Singlish, Hinglish, Chinglish and others are all becoming more commonly heard. When two non-native speakers communicate in English, they are likely to use a kind of ‘International’ or ‘Global’ English.
English is sometimes described as ‘the world’s second language’, and the ability of people in many different parts of the world to communicate using (International) English undoubtedly helps global trade and communications. And as global interaction increases, so does the use of English as lingua franca.
We can expect that as non-English speaking countries such as China, India, Brazil, Russia and others continue to grow their economies and play a bigger part in world affairs, even more kinds of English will start to appear.
I often read that native English speakers have it easy. I don’t fully agree with that. It’s true that we don’t have to learn a whole new language. But if we want to communicate effectively with non-native speakers using English, we need to work hard to choose our words and structures carefully.
My friends here in Turkey – a mixture of Turkish, French, Italian and Catalan speakers – use a language they call ‘Mediterranean English’. When I’m with them, I need to adapt my English or I’ll be talking to myself. Learning to adapt patterns of speech which have been ingrained since childhood is not so easy either.
PocketCultures contributors come from many different countries. And they use different varieties of English, so the articles you read on PocketCultures reflect that – they aren’t written using the same kind of English. For us, it’s another aspect of the world’s diversity to be celebrated.
What do you think about different varieties of English? A reflection of the world’s variety or a source of confusion?