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Saturday, June 26, 2010

On A Friday: So You Think You Can Speak English?

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Enlgsih english misspell image Back in the days shortly after Australian Federation and until halfway through the 20th century, it was common banter for Aussies to describe the Australian people as “more British than the British.” Back then Australia was still strongly attached to the British Empire and the “more British” suggestion could be seen as a light-hearted joke at the expense of the mother country.

America on the other hand has not tried to carry on its British history since its revolution and independence in the 1700s. Many parts of American culture and values have changed to become unique to the US, but there are still quite a few remnants of British settlement. One of the most obvious of these is the English Language. I have in the past joked that American English is far from being “real” English, and now I now have some serious backing for that argument!

People around the world use American websites such as Google and its subsidiary YouTube to explore what the internet has to offer. Google delivers most of its websites and services in a plethora of languages, with its standard language being US English.

I signed in to YouTube last night to be greeted with a “Welcome to YouTube” message (despite having been a user for some time now). The message suggested setting my location filter to Australia and my language to English UK.

Happy with those suggestions I went to click Ok. But just as I went to do that I noticed a little hyperlink in the bottom left of the message box that read “Show message in English”.

Welcom to YouTube image

I’m sorry Google, but where did the ENGLISH language originate from? No, not the region of New England, but from England in the United Kingdom!

Fundamentally these languages are the same but there are some critical differences. I spell colour, you spell color; I spell centre, you spell center. Describing US English as “English” is muddling the dialects and could be confusing for some people who are trying to learn the language.

Greater clarity is needed in these language message boxes to prevent such confusion, especially when automation goes wrong as it did in the above message. At least that way you won’t get people like myself being picky about your terminology!

2 responses:

Anonymous said...

Yes! Well said that man!

William PJ Kulich said...

Thanks ^^

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