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Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
Poll: Is it acceptable to mix 2 different languages in informal speech or writing?
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 20:43
SITE STAFF
Nov 23, 2011

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Is it acceptable to mix 2 different languages in informal speech or writing?".

This poll was originally submitted by Kasia E Slobodzian-Taylor. View the poll results »



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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:43
Member (2011)
Hebrew to English
Code-switching is natural Nov 23, 2011

I'm not sure why anybody would say "No".

If we're talking about informal speech or writing, then I find it a bit odd to dictate what is unacceptable concerning language/dialect choice....

...If informal is defined as talking to your mates, writing a note on the fridge, status updates on facebook etc....

I guess some people will argue that it is unacceptable in a mixed crowd where some don't understand the other language/dialect you are speaking/writing, but even then, I don't think this makes it unacceptable, rude perhaps, inconsiderate even, depending on the situation, but not unacceptable.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:43
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
I couldn't agree more. Nov 23, 2011


Ty Kendall wrote:

I'm not sure why anybody would say "No".

If we're talking about informal speech or writing, then I find it a bit odd to dictate what is unacceptable concerning language/dialect choice....

...If informal is defined as talking to your mates, writing a note on the fridge, status updates on facebook etc....

I guess some people will argue that it is unacceptable in a mixed crowd where some don't understand the other language/dialect you are speaking/writing, but even then, I don't think this makes it unacceptable, rude perhaps, inconsiderate even, depending on the situation, but not unacceptable.





It is as Ty said: it comes natural.


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Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:43
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Acceptable Nov 23, 2011

to whom?

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neilmac
Spain
Local time: 05:43
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes Nov 23, 2011

All the time. Even my monoligual friends soon pick up a smattering of Spanish when they come to visit and by the time they've had a couple of carajillos they can usually pronounce it too!

Growing up in Glasgow, you soon learn to switch from "see you Jimmy" to a reasonable facsimile of "How now brown cow" standard English when required and I assume this happens more or less everywhere you go to some extent.

[Edited at 2011-11-23 14:34 GMT]

Sometimes it's even necessary. Just the other day a friend was asking about a guitar I have, if it was well known etc, so I looked it up, saw the company was founded in 1883, and found myself saying "tiene solera" (= it has a history) without thinking.

[Edited at 2011-11-23 14:44 GMT]


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Trinh Do
Member (2007)
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
No Nov 23, 2011

Mixing English and Vietnamese or French and Vietnamese just sounds sick or pretentious to me. It destroys the beauty of both languages.

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Angus Stewart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:43
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
Yes, its perfectly normal Nov 23, 2011


neilmac wrote:

All the time....

Growing up in Glasgow, you soon learn to switch from "see you Jimmy" to a reasonable facsimile of "How now brown cow" standard English when required and I assume this happens more or everywhere you go to some extent.


As a fellow Scot, my own experience is broadly similar: I grew up in an environment where code switching was and still is the norm. I see no reason why this should not also apply in the case of other languages.


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:43
Member (2011)
Hebrew to English
Loaded answer Nov 23, 2011

I'm not keen on the answer "No, if done by language professionals".

This answer presupposes a somewhat elitist perspective, that there is something inherently wrong with code-switching and that it's fine if done by your average Joe, but not by someone educated in language.

If you do have a background in linguistics, you should be aware of code-switching and that there isn't anything wrong with it. There are arguments to be made about appropriateness in different contexts but not that someone who has studied language "should know better". I'd like to think that anyone with any knowledge of code-switching would be perfectly at ease with code-switching in an informal environment.

Not to mention diglossic language situations, where code-switching is expected/the norm.

@ Trinh:
There should also be a distinction drawn between true code-switching and just littering your speech with French and Latin phrases (as happens in English) which does indeed sound pretentious.


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Sophie Dzhygir  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:43
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
I'm also puzzled by the question Nov 23, 2011

Acceptable to whom? And why should anybody bother what I'm doing in an informal setting?

Yes, I do it, my husband and I speak Frussian


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Oliver Lawrence  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 05:43
Member (2008)
Italian to English
+ ...
Not "unacceptable" but probably "inadvisable" for language pros Nov 23, 2011

If you want to produce high quality translations that read naturally in the target language, you need to take care that that your source language does not affect the way you communicate in your target. Accordingly, making an effort to keep them separate can be useful for professional purposes - especially, perhaps, if you live in your source language country.

By the way, there often seems to be a lot of nit-picking about the wording of these polls (which I agree is sometimes not great, but bear in mind that they are often submitted by non-native speakers of English); it might make for a more productive discussion if we could just try to comment on the issue, even if that means straying a little from the question as literally worded.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:43
Member
English to German
+ ...
I voted "No" for a particular reason: Nov 23, 2011

I am a member of several forums for German expats in the US. Usually those are very small and close-knit forums of well-educated folks where members easily become close friends. There is a phenomenon that is symptomatic for new expats who have only recently immigrated to the US. For miraculous reasons and within only very few months they seem to have forgotten their native language and have become soooo American that they are no longer capable of speaking or writing any language other than a mix of German and hilarious English. In expat forums and similar circles this habit is considered pompous and pathetic. Comparable to tourists who have returned home from a two week Florida vacation and for the next couple of weeks start every other sentence with "Well, ..."



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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 05:43
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Grown up with it, lived all my life with it Nov 23, 2011

Of course you could maintain some of my family were professionals, but for us it is simply a way of life, in conversation, letters, e-mails...
If you move just a little way out into cousins, a lot of my relatives are bilingual with different language pairs.

From dialect and code changing between Anglo-Indian and Oxford, which my brother and I practised, or Northumbrian-home, which my younger sisters practised, to real discussions and play with different languages: Marathi-English, Danish-Swedish, and any combination of English or Danish and whatever other language anyone was studying at the time...

It may be a faux pas or impolite if not properly understood. It may look silly for other reasons. Just call it context ...

Mixing languages can, of course become a bad habit, but it can be a great way of sharpening awareness of the finer nuances, and reaching a closer understanding of different cultures and perspectives on little things we otherwise take for granted.

On the whole it is unwise to make too many rules about language, and especially informal language.
The whole range of human situations expressed and in turn moulded by language... cannot be pinned down and regulated.

A far more interesting question is what you do with a two-language conversation/discourse when asked to translate it into a third language, or even into one of the two.

How do you render the shifts and the reasons for them and make those clear to the new readers? Or do they just get lost on translation?

Was it nine angels that could dance on a pinhead?


[Edited at 2011-11-23 19:56 GMT]


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Simon Bruni  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:43
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
Quite Nov 23, 2011


Oliver Lawrence wrote:

By the way, there often seems to be a lot of nit-picking about the wording of these polls (which I agree is sometimes not great, but bear in mind that they are often submitted by non-native speakers of English); it might make for a more productive discussion if we could just try to comment on the issue, even if that means straying a little from the question as literally worded.


As translators we are prone to over-analysing the semantics and can be rather pedantic about spelling and grammar formalities. These polls are informal after all; if we started acting like this down the pub our friends would soon get very annoyed!


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DianeGM  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:43
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Other Nov 23, 2011

I think it is OK in informal speech with the right participants/audience.
I don't think so for written language, even an informal text, unless you can guarantee the right meaning is delivered only and specifically to the right audience. And when something is printed, that's pretty hard.

Personally speaking, with my family and multi-lingual friends we mix languages all the time in conversation, for streamlining, for illustration, for humour, terms pass into our language code from muilti-lingual mix-ups our kids have, etc. I can't speak for the others on their judgements of 'acceptability' but seems to work well and be generally a culturally enriching experience for us.


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Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:43
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Yes, it's inevitable. Nov 23, 2011


DianeGM wrote:

Personally speaking, with my family and multi-lingual friends we mix languages all the time in conversation, for streamlining, for illustration, for humour, terms pass into our language code from muilti-lingual mix-ups our kids have, etc. I can't speak for the others on their judgements of 'acceptability' but seems to work well and be generally a culturally enriching experience for us.


Sometimes while speaking English a Dutch, Hebrew or Yiddish (and sometimes even Spanish, German or French although I don't speak any of these) word just comes to mind before any other, or conveys my thought more appropriately than any English word I can think of... and more often when speaking Dutch or Hebrew, English words just naturally pop out. Can't help it.


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Poll: Is it acceptable to mix 2 different languages in informal speech or writing?






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