Thursday, November 26, 2020
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Much ado about English

Over time, the English language has evolved into something that is only but a derivative of what we consider to…

By Stephanie Lim , in Blogs Secret Life of an English Teacher , on February 10, 2008

Over time, the English language has evolved into something that is only but a derivative of what we consider to be modern English.

Living and teaching English in Japan have allowed me to learn so much more than just the Japanese people, language, and culture. At work, I was shocked to find out how incredibly different English speakers from other countries spoke. That was when I realized that I too was and still am an English language student.Here are some of the words that I encountered and found amusing:

In Australia, a ‘dunny’ means toilet.

In Britain, to ‘snog’ means to makeout.

In Ireland, ‘stocious’ means drunk.

The above examples are obvious English language differences found in countries whose first language is English. However, during my travels to Hong Kong and Singapore, I discovered that these countries had their own distinct English language too. What happens is that they borrow and blend words from their native language with English, or in some cases, they codeswitch (switch between languages).

Here are some words and phrases I learned:

In ‘chinglish’ (Hong Kong), ‘Let’s go yum cha’ means let’s go for dim sum (Chinese brunch).

In ‘singlish’ (Singapore), ‘can ah’ means can you or can’t you.

There are 350 million native English speakers from around the world, yet both native and non-native speakers all have difficulties with being grammatically correct.

For Beijing, China, they have been made fun of by many travelers about their mistranslations of signs. For example, the “Ethnic Minorities Park is named ‘Racist Park’”. In hopes to give Beijing, China a better image now and for the Olympics 2008, “the Beijing Tourism Bureau set up a hotline for visitors and residents to tip off examples of bad English,” reported BBC News Asia-Pacifc.

I find that English is a fascinating language to learn even with all of the different ways English is spoken around the world.