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The Maple Leaf Rag

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Mapleleaf Man

United States

March 31, 2012

(This is from a log that I write on renren.com, a Chinese Facebook site.)

A very good friend of mine, a lovely Brazilian girl who I love dearly (she's married, don't worry), used to ask me how to say things properly in English. One of the funny ones I remember was when she asked me how to say 'a piece of paper'. She had been saying 'a shit of paper' because to her, sheet was pronounced shit. She couldn't hear the difference between sheet and shit. She knew it was funny and wrong and we both laughed about it. I helped her many times and we became good friends. 

The point of my status updates this morning was to find out what you guys think about making fun of people from other places, other races, you know? Then I got to thinking about English and Engrish and Chinglish and so on. I want you to know my point of view on this. 

Language is communication. I want to say something and I want you to understand what I mean. Does it matter how I say it? As long as I get my point across, that is communication. If all you want to do is meet and talk to foreigners, your English doesn't have to be perfect. As you know, I live in an area full of people from around the world. On my short street, we have Chinese, Greek, Japanese, Indian, Philippino, Caribbean, Polish, Sri Lankan, Pakistani and maybe some others that I don't know about. Somehow, we all communicate with each other quite well. Not everyone is like me, however. There are older people who are quite racist to newcomers. There are newcomers who don't quite fit into the neighbourhood. Basically, it's good but not perfect. 

My point is that it doesn't matter if your English is perfect. You can communicate in whatever way you feel comfortable. If you use Chinglish to make a point, what difference does it make? Here in North America, no one, not even the big TV stations or newspapers use perfect English all the time. I wish I could show you the mistakes they make. If you want to be a scholar, learn perfect English. If you want to communicate, just do whatever you are doing when you communicate with me. It's all good!

Thanks for reading!

More entries: A New Year, New Ways to Learn (2), English sucks...but don't give up. (6), Learning English is never easy, but it's worth the effort. (2), Easy English Stories, English vocabulary - another way to learn (1), A Shit of Paper (3), Break a leg - another English idiom. , Repost: Are all Chinese girls lesbians? (3), How language affects your life. (3), Chinese Writing (5)

View all entries from The Maple Leaf Rag >

04:00 PM Apr 02 2012

Julie3

Julie3
Russian Federation

u are welcome, Man. Ur blogs help in it for sure, keep on doing that!

05:43 AM Apr 02 2012

Mapleleaf Man
United States

Thanks Julie. I get frustrated with how English is taught sometimes. It's a business and it takes the fun out of it, I think. A native speaker doesn't get all tied up with grammar and prepositions, etc. We haven't learned that since grade 3 and not one Canadian out of 100 knows what a conjunction is, I don't think. Naming of parts is not learning English. There are simpler ways. I hope I can help some people 'communicate' and feel good about it, without being afraid of embarrassment. Thanks for commenting. 

10:35 PM Apr 01 2012

Julie3

Julie3
Russian Federation

Thanks for a nice blog, giving us (other language speakers) an impulse to speak and communicate in English and don't feel much shy about our mistakes and errors (I've been always wondering what the difference is between these two concepts).

I worked for a company where canadians and americans were working with us and I noticed so many linguistics "mistakes". I mean they talked not in the way we had been taught at the University, with all these prepositions, tenses, grammar rules etc. I understood long ago (as far as I am an interpreter and my goal is to reach communication and understanding among\between people) the main aim is to reach the meaning\sense\idea no matter by what means :)