The King's English....or Spanish...or Portuguese....or......


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

May 29, 2011 GMT
Jon maddog Hall


This blog is not aimed at those people who try to speak in languages other than their own native language. For those people I have the greatest respect.


This blog is aimed at people who do not take the time and effort to communicate well in their own native language.


My niece teaches high school English in the Pennsylvania school system, and tells me that some of her students do not seem to know or care that there the words that rhyme with the word “to” that are spelled “two” and “too” have completely different meanings. "I have to friends" is something they would write.


Recently I gently corrected a man who was studying business in college when he used the word “there”, when he meant to show possession by using the word “their”. "It was there house" he tweeted to the world.


It is the age of SMS and Tweeting, where short and shorter sentences are used to convey our meaning, and the instruments used to communicate not only lack tone and expression (other than the occasional smiley face), but also limit us to just a few characters. People get lax in the use of their language.


I was reading a mailing list when one of the people participating asked a question as if it had been typed over SMS (and perhaps it was), but the messages so filled with abbreviations and misspellings that one of the most knowledgeable members of the list refused to even recognize that the question had been asked.


I deal with many people from many lands that speak many languages other than English. When they send email directly to me, they often either write in English or use Google Translate to convert their native language into English, then they apologize for the poor translation. Actually most of the time the translation is quite good, or at least makes the foreign language understandable.


However, Google Translate is not perfect, and it really starts to fail when I want to read Facebook comments or profiles in some other language and where the foreign language is written in their own “shorthand” for SMS and Tweets. Google Translate tries valiantly to translate, but can not hope to translate the latest acronym for “laughing out loud” in that culture's language.


This is too bad, because I do want to know what these people are saying. And I assume that they wanted to be understood because they took the time and at least a little effort to write something.


When I first started doing videos, I would not put in captions. But then a friend of mine, Joner Worm, convinced me that putting in captions not only helped foreign people that had difficulty understanding what was said in the audio of the video, but also helped the people who were hard of hearing. After captioning the English verbiage, we would turn over the caption file to the translators, and they could more easily translate the written English into other languages. From there many other people would be able to learn from the one video.


In today's global environment, whenever we can, we should take the time to speak and write carefully and clearly, particularly if it is the written word, so others on the opposite side of the planet can understand us, and Google Translate can do its best.

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