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Saturday, March 17, 2007

England not my mother tongue...

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Walski's NaSTy Pee embargo note: Yes, Walski seems to have broken the embargo, but not really. He still does not purchase any NST publications, although has relaxed the online viewing bit on occassion, when necessary. This is one of those necessary instances.

"England not my maar-der tongue" is one of those defensive outbusts outbursts Walski has gotten a few times in the past when trying to correct someone's England English. And apparently, it's also not the mother tongue of some Malaysian news editors either.

Image hosting by PhotobucketWalski wonders if this actually made to the print edition...

The word should probably be outburst, and not outbust. Which sounds like a competition to determine who has the larger bossom. Like in "Britney Spears outbusts Kate Moss". The news article, however, had nothing to do with Pak Lah admonishing anyone's breast-size competition. It had nothing to do whatsoever with breasts.

To be fair, though, outbust does exist - in the made-up words category. So, kudos to the NST for their creative England English. Ah, yes... English as she is broken.

Okay, enough of NaSTy-bashing for one morning... the point is that the standard of English in Malaysia leaves much to be desired. Walski does his part in trying to correct his colleagues' English when he can, or people around him - without being too obnoxious.

For example, (to address Lucia's query) pursue versus pursuit. One's a verb, and the other a noun. One can pursue A's in a public exam like SPM, but the act of doing so is called pursuit of A's. What Walski sees (with a certain small amount of chagrin) a lot of times in his industry is people who call themselves Project Pursue Managers.

Which, if stated as a newspaper headline, would imply a project chasing after managers.
(more England thoughts, in the full post)

But Walski feels very indebted to his parents and (late) maternal grandparents for giving him the gift of English command. You see, at home, English was spoken more than Bahasa Malaysia, for the most part, when Walski was growing up. His late maternal grandmother went to school until Standard 3 (which was a VERY big deal in the 1930's), and grand-dad was a civil servant - back then everything was in English.

And English, like any language, requires practice. You can learn a language as a subject in school, but having any amount of proficiency requires one to use it. Preferably, speaking it regularly. Granted, Walski doesn't possess the mindboggling verbosity of Dr. Azly Abdul Rahman, or the bombasticity of Rehman Rashid (and definitely nowhere as anal).

On the other hand, some might argue that English, like many other languages, evolves into derivative dialects, to the extent that the spoken English dialects can sometimes be very different from the Queen's English. Like in Jamaica, or even Stoke-on-Trent.

Image hosting by PhotobucketDifferent Queen, but whose English was just as immaculate
(image taken from Wikipedia)

So perhaps, our disgruntlement is with the quality of Standard English in use. British or American? It doesn't matter which - the tense structures and grammatical rules are virtually the same. Walski's preference is the American version, only because he studied there. In reality, whether you spell color with or without the extraneous 'u' doesn't really matter, as long as you remember the singular or plural. Color is, colours are....

He is, she is, I is am... wonderful language, English. A language with more exceptions than rules. But hey - at least you don't have to worry about gender, like in French and other Romantic languages... now gender has no rules whatsoever. You simply need to know.

The point is that every language is unique, each with its own idiosyncracies. Many Asian languages generally don't have object number arguments. "Satu bola, satu ribu bola" is correct, but not one ball, one thousand ball.

The real challenge is to not mix the ideosyncracies idiosyncracies up...

Update: Walski's note to self - 2 things: dictionary and spell-check (Thanks Marina - but typos do occur...)