Saturday, 2 April 2011

The Mighty English Tongue

English speakers are masters of the language that is most widely spoken as a second language anywhere in the world. However, we should not kid ourselves that this is quite the same thing as having a language that is widely spoken. What is widely spoken is a peculiar aberrant that should probably be called 'Multicultural English'.

I was reminded of this on my morning walk just now, because I passed a bus stop where the Multicultural English dialect was being deployed to great effect. This is the conversation that I heard being conducted in Multicultural English between a woman with a German accent and a woman who I have seen about before and I think is Vietnamese:

'Bus coming?'


'So, here is the time table that I am reading. So, in the morning they a little bit more longer are and then in the after early morning they are more settled becoming.'

'Bus coming?'

'I think now it is a more settled time.'

'So coming now bus?'

'The bus is now not coming, but soon it comes.'

'Bus coming?'

7 comments:

  1. No doubt Polly can explain exactly how vernaculars, creoles, and pidgins form. Part of the effect is not just the dominance of a language but the ease of travel. Back when some Sarmatians could speak one version of a shaky Latin and some Lusitanians another version, they probably didn't encounter one another much.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Polly not here right now, George, Polly gone teach Chinese peoples, but when she back, will ask what she say.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi George and Zoe - this is my favourite topic, but I won't bore you.

    Instead, here's my dilemma: speakers of English overseas talk to each other more than to native speakers, and many habits get reinforced. There are two that are ubiquitous with speakers from all over and are probably becoming the norm for English spoken overseas.

    I got married with him.

    We will discuss about it tomorrow.

    Of course, they both make sense, so they stick. George and Zoe, prepare yourself for the day when your globe-trotting grandchildren speak these words.

    ReplyDelete
  4. ... and a funny story from an Aussie colleague who's been in China a few years, who heard herself tell students to turn off anything "electronical" before an exam.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yes, Polly, I know that strange English as a Foreign Language way of talking that one slips into. We used to have a Philipina maid and, with her and her friends, there were a whole lot of odd grammatical constructions that you learned were easier to use than correct English, if you wanted them to understand and feel at ease. I even began to prefer the rhythm of some of their phrasing. And when you are in a room with a whole lot of people for whom English is a second language, you do get this odd hybrid form, as in 'I got married with him.' I don't know why, but I'm rather fond of it

    ReplyDelete
  6. And, Polly, the other thing about that bus stop conversation is that, being Canberra, I knew that no bus was ever likely to come anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It all sounds like a lost Beckett play . . .

    ReplyDelete