Is my English really that bad?
Thread poster: Rad Graban

Rad Graban  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:31
English to Slovak
+ ...
Aug 22, 2007

After my last "Quick Poll" and recent "Forum Post", I'm getting a bit paranoid that my English is really bad. Is it the case? Honest replies please.

[Edited at 2007-08-22 03:31]


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
Seems clear Aug 22, 2007

Rad Graban wrote:

After my last "Quick Poll" and recent "Forum Post", I'm getting a bit paranoid that my English is really bad. Is it the case? Honest replies please.


This question was flawless. Your profile is perfectly understandable, though it doesn't feel 100% native.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:31
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Don't worry, it happens to all of us Aug 22, 2007

"Everybody speaks English" these days, but we don't have a language council like the Danes or an "Academie Anglaise"...

Often those who do have such bodies take very little notice of them except to criticise. English is a free-for-all.

I regularly get criticisms of my English. It amuses me when I am told that 'A native speaker would NEVER say anything like that!" And in fact I have carefully used an expression I have seen several times in a quality newspaper (Times, Guardian, New Scientist for instance) or heard a BBC or CNN reporter use... Or borrowed from a well-known author.

My own family are educated native speakers and live in the UK, so I am reasonably confident about their language too. I've been an ex-pat myself for more than half my life now, so I do have to take care.

Whatever you say, you can probably find some reputable prececent somewhere. Someone else will tell you it is terrible, and you simply can't say that etc.

That's just the Eastern side of the pond... I don't often mess with US English, but it's really no big deal.



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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:31
English to Polish
+ ...
Nay-tyvv Aug 22, 2007

If I had a penny for every "sentence" written by natives that read like something written by a drunk highschool student from [name of country where they don't speak English]... boy, oh boy.

As Christine says, I think a lot of it comes from knowing who wrote the text.

If it's not signed "Wilbur Reginald Smythe III", then a little red light goes on and you think "uh oh, there must be something wrong here".

Pawel Skalinski
(not Wilbur Reginald Smythe III)


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biankonera  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 00:31
Italian to Latvian
+ ...
Fine by me Aug 22, 2007

Id say your English is fine and I agree with colleagues who say it has happened to all of us at one time or another. In my case Ive had native speakers say how excellent my English is while I didnt pass my university admission test because I didnt pronounce ONE (!!!) word correctly... and that university was NOT in an English speaking country.

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:31
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
PAS is right. Aug 22, 2007

If you're not a native speaker, then some people believe that by definition your English is below par. Or else the Eliza Doolittle principle applies: if you speak perfect English, "it's not natural," so you must be Hungarian... You can't win.

People over here are not always aware that I acquired my Danish surname by marriage - women often keep their own names nowadays.

I speak good, but not perfect Danish, and get away with a lot if people think I'm a Dane. They think I come from Funen or southern Jutland, occasionally perhaps Norway. But if I have introduced myself as a foreigner, there are some individuals who suddenly can't understand a word I say!

That's life...



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estacommo
English
the english language Aug 22, 2007

Christine Andersen wrote:

"Everybody speaks English" these days, but we don't have a language council like the Danes or an "Academie Anglaise"...

Often those who do have such bodies take very little notice of them except to criticise. English is a free-for-all.

I regularly get criticisms of my English. It amuses me when I am told that 'A native speaker would NEVER say anything like that!" And in fact I have carefully used an expression I have seen several times in a quality newspaper (Times, Guardian, New Scientist for instance) or heard a BBC or CNN reporter use... Or borrowed from a well-known author.

My own family are educated native speakers and live in the UK, so I am reasonably confident about their language too. I've been an ex-pat myself for more than half my life now, so I do have to take care.

Whatever you say, you can probably find some reputable prececent somewhere. Someone else will tell you it is terrible, and you simply can't say that etc.

That's just the Eastern side of the pond... I don't often mess with US English, but it's really no big deal.



The native speak and write with very standard, and polished languages, as the language of the days is, but it's very worn too. Look for example the texts of Hemingway, or Canard’s short story the Carain Memory, there is strong sound of foreign accent and with very plain words.

I would like to ask how goes the flowing: A big was killed today. The second did the deed. He says, “ It will go rotten because the captain wouldn’t let him have a bottle of rum to give him.
To whom the rum should to give?


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mjbjosh
Local time: 23:31
English to Latvian
+ ...
Lemme guess Aug 22, 2007

bramasole wrote:
In my case Ive had native speakers say how excellent my English is while I didnt pass my university admission test because I didnt pronounce ONE (!!!) word correctly... and that university was NOT in an English speaking country.


I bet that university was in Latvia, right?? They are quite anal about that.


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Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:31
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
(a) yes it happens to all of us (b) The English misuse their own language Aug 22, 2007

Christine Andersen wrote:
And in fact I have carefully used an expression I have seen several times in a quality newspaper (Times, Guardian, New Scientist for instance) or heard a BBC or CNN reporter use... Or borrowed from a well-known author.


When you wrote that, I thought I'd look on one or two of those web sites for my current favourite (and fairly common) grammatical error. Here are three examples:
1. found on
http://football.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/0,,2153522,00.html
"But it was one of those who has come in the opposite direction who really stood out." (The Guardian 22 Aug)
2. found on
http://arts.guardian.co.uk/edinburgh2007/story/0,,2153364,00.html
"What we eat, suggests Morrison, is one of the things that defines who we are." (The Guardian 21 Aug)
3. found on
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg12717264.800-forum-what-culture-gap--theres-hardly-a-gap-to-bebridged-.htm
"I have been following with interest the debate about the future of science education, for I am one of those who is at the 'sharp end' - no, not a teacher but a student." (New Scientist 21 July 1990)
I hope I don't need to explain what the error is (I have italicised the erroneous words).

Oliver


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Rebecca Lowery  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:31
French to English
There is absolutely nothing wrong with your English! Aug 22, 2007

Just my 2 cents!

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:31
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Well, I remember when it was a crime to ever split an infinitive Aug 23, 2007

... at least in school when the teachers were listening. It was a bad idea in job applications too. I still avoid it if I can keep the infinitive together without tying knots in the sentence. Scandinavian clients don't always accept it, so it's wise to play safe.

I learnt a lot of useful grammar at school, especially from my respected Latin teacher (RIP), but I learnt from the English teachers to be critical and take certain things with a pinch of salt. Those were the days when miners and factory workers were discovering they could write, (and wow, some could!) and we all went to see 'Close the Coalhouse Door' and 'Joe Egg' at Newcastle Playhouse, cried and raged over 'Cathy come Home'... and tried to develop our own style.

OK, Oliver, I did wonder if should admit to emulating what we used to call the Guradian (sic) at one time. That was when I worked as a printer's proof reader It's true - the short answer is that the natives can't speak and write English either.

English is a free-for-all, as I said. Try reading David Crystal on the subject. "The Fight for English - How language pundits ate, shot and left" is very readable in short sections, and "Words Words Words" is thought provoking and entertaining, if lightweight compared with some of his books.

But some native English speakers ARE more hopeless than others, so you can choose which to emulate. You're doing fine. My father used to say "Listen to criticism. But you don't have to act on it."



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Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:31
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
You're right Aug 23, 2007

Christine Andersen wrote:
Well, I remember when it was a crime to ever split an infinitive

... at least in school when the teachers were listening. It was a bad idea in job applications too. I still avoid it if I can keep the infinitive together without tying knots in the sentence.
That's my approach also
OK, Oliver, I did wonder if should admit to emulating what we used to call the Guradian (sic) at one time.
The wrong name I used to know is "The Grauniad", because that paper was well known for containing "typos":
http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/005479.html
It's true - the short answer is that the natives can't speak and write English either.
Well, I would say that some of us can, most of the time.
"Listen to criticism. But you don't have to act on it."
Wise words.

Oliver


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xxxSpring City  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:31
Chinese to English
+ ...
Quality newspapers contain examples of bad English too Aug 26, 2007

Christine Andersen wrote:

"Everybody speaks English" these days, but we don't have a language council like the Danes or an "Academie Anglaise"...

Often those who do have such bodies take very little notice of them except to criticise. English is a free-for-all.

I regularly get criticisms of my English. It amuses me when I am told that 'A native speaker would NEVER say anything like that!" And in fact I have carefully used an expression I have seen several times in a quality newspaper (Times, Guardian, New Scientist for instance) or heard a BBC or CNN reporter use... Or borrowed from a well-known author.

My own family are educated native speakers and live in the UK, so I am reasonably confident about their language too. I've been an ex-pat myself for more than half my life now, so I do have to take care.

Whatever you say, you can probably find some reputable prececent somewhere. Someone else will tell you it is terrible, and you simply can't say that etc.

That's just the Eastern side of the pond... I don't often mess with US English, but it's really no big deal.




Hmm. Although I am not querying the quality of your English, I want to pick up on the point that anything written in the Times or the Guardian is by definition correct English. Standards have fallen - through the floor. It depends on the quality of the sub-editing. My time as an English-language sub-editor persuaded me that few "native speakers" can write good English.

There is no body regulating the English language, but that does not mean that anything goes. There are distinctions that are still observed by careful writers. None of the broadsheet newspapers is noted for exclusive employment of careful writers. The best of the bunch - The Daily Telegraph - still contains grammatical howlers.


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xxxSpring City  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:31
Chinese to English
+ ...
Can you give a link to your recent forum post? Aug 26, 2007

Rad Graban wrote:

After my last "Quick Poll" and recent "Forum Post", I'm getting a bit paranoid that my English is really bad. Is it the case? Honest replies please.

[Edited at 2007-08-22 03:31]


You didn't supply a link to the forum post in question, so strictly speaking the replies you have received in this thread from people who have not read that forum post can be discounted.

If you supply the link, we can take a look and comment.


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Alan R King
Local time: 23:31
Basque to English
+ ...
I did Aug 26, 2007

I found the links and read the pertinent posts. I didn't see any genuine evidence that there is anything wrong with Rad's English there, just a couple of misunderstandings that could happen to anybody. For example, an "issue" over the meaning of a question arising from anbiguity of the word "posh" as used in different varieties of English slang. I am a native English speaker and I have had worse misunderstandings with other native speakers - communication is, after all, an art not a science. (And that also goes for translating!)

Alan


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