We know that languages change. There are countless ways to show that change. We know this to be true, languages change. Noone finds the statement that “languages change” to be worthy of a dispute nowadays.
It’s a fact, languages change. It’s usually not a problem, unless you are concerned with language purity. For instance, there are those who believe language should be kept pure, in a standardized form, with approved words, meanings, uses, pronunciation, etc. Language change matters a lot to such people.
However, the larger question is why you and I (everyday people) should care about language change. “So what?“, is the most important question we can ask ourselves. I mean, if I can understand you, and you can understand me, there is no problem. Any time you are using words in a way that confuses me, then I can clear up the misunderstanding by simply asking, “What do you mean by that?”
My point is that if languages change, I don’t have to worry so much about change per se, but about my ability to use language in a way that is appropriate to the communicative purpose and situation I find myself in. In short, negotiation of meaning is the tool I use to understand you.
Another option, besides negotiation of meaning, is being up to date on all language change. Of course, this is nearly impossible, that is, unless you are in contact with teens.
Teens have always been willing (and able) to coin new terms, words, and phrases that suit their world view, their teen culture, and their own experience of making sense of the world.
Spanglish, Singlish, and Chinglish (non-standard forms of English), will most likely all have teens as a source of inspiration. Teens (and technology) have given us alternative ways of expression, time and time again, that in the end, have enriched our use of language overall. As a result of teens willingness to innovate with language, the disappearance of Standard English is on the horizon. Not!
No, it is very premature on my part to predict the demise of Standard English. For example, try speaking Chinglish, Singlish or Spanglish at a job interview for an international company. You would most likely not get the job.
Spoken English, in other words, is standardised in formal situations. We have come to expect adherence to the norms of linguistic behaviour, in formal communicative situations, from a competent language user. Again, using a non-standard form of English in a formal communicative situation is not likely to be a successful strategy.
Another example is written English, which I have used for this post. Had I written in Chinglish, Singlish or in Spanglish, I would have been at times incoherent for some of the readers. Yet is using Spanglish a strategy that always has negative communicative consequences in formal situations?
I am a bit of a maverick, and I have written a book in Spanglish called, “Soy Un Maestro: I Am A Teacher.” It is a book that celebrates the joys and challenges of being a teacher.
Yes, it is written in Spanglish, but don’t let that put you off. Take my word for it, it’s one of the best books I’ve written about being a teacher and the teaching profession in general. Take a look for yourself, it’s only $2.99:
I am a teacher, and I teach in Chile. This year a new Teacher Career Law, defining the teaching profession in terms of increased prestige, attracting more applicants from higher performing students, an obligatory enabling exam, higher salaries, fewer hours teaching in the classroom, and higher responsibilities wil be passed, hopefully. This book totally supports the idea that a good law is needed, and now is the time to pass one, even if that law is not yet perfect.
We Teachers have such a long way to go, and this is clearly a tremendous step in the right direction. To celebrate, all of the funds received for the sale of this book will go to support the EdCamp Santiago free conference for teachers in Chile. Thank you, in advance, for buying this book. May God Bless You…
Soy el más afortunado de todos quienes trabajan. A un médico se le permite traer una vida en un momento mágico. A mí se me permite que esa vida renazca día a a día con nuevas preguntas, ideas y amistades. Un arquitecto sabe que si construye con cuidado, su estructura puede permanecer por siglos. Un maestro sabe que si construye con amor y verdad, lo que construya durará para siempre.
Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (July 3, 2012)
Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He is the Head of the English Department at Colegio Internacional SEK in Santiago, Chile.
He is the Co-Founder and Co-Organiser of EdCamp Santiago, free, participant-driven, democratic, conversation based professional development for teachers, by teachers. EdCamp Santiago 2012 was held at Universidad Mayor in Santiago.
Thomas is also a member of the Advisory Board for the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL), where he also serves as a reviewer and as the HETL Ambassador for Chile.
Thomas enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. Thus far, he has written the following genres: romance, historical fiction, autobiographical, sports history/biography, and English Language Teaching. He has published a total of forty four (44) books overall.
The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family, his wife Gabriela, and his son, Thomas Jerome Baker, Jr.
The extremes of experience and the limits of reality.
This is a formula for which one can approach teaching teens. Often, our best planned efforts in the classroom fail to capture the students enthusiasm, and thusly, fail to capture the students’ engagement.
We’ve all been there.
What can be done to improve student engagement?
Dr. Kieran Egan suggests we focus on what is common to all teens: heroes and heroines, and from this vantage point, allow teens the possibility to become comfortable with their own need to find out the answer to a fundamental question:
Who is my hero, who has qualities that I would like to emulate. This book is an experiential account of just such an effort with three teens, descriptive in nature, and thus beneficial from a practical viewpoint, while addressing the theoretical issues from the beginning…
“…on the surface similar, Spanglish, Chinglish, and other “mixed tongues” respond to distinct cultural phenomena. For one thing, Chinglish doesn’t emerge from a confrontation between majority and minority groups. It is about making intelligible in one tongue what is uttered in another—and, needless to say, the abyss between standard Chinese and English is enormous.” – Ilan Stavans,professor of Latin American and Latino culture at Amherst College
While it may not be recognised in the world as a formal language, a bit of knowledge on Singlish is definitely essential when travelling around Singapore. It is a unique blend of English, Chinese, Malay, Tamil and local dialects.
To some, it is a beautiful language that proudly displays the multi-cultural character of our society; to others, it is a colloquialism so full of grammatical errors that it makes you squirm each time you hear it. Regardless, it is useful to understand a fair bit of Singlish, or at least understand the most common phrases used to avoid getting ‘lost in translation’.
Besides the typical “lah” which punctuates most sentences used by the locals, here is a quick guide of phrases that you may encounter and use most often:
Don’t pray pray ah!: “Don’t mess around!”
Oh, izzit?: “That’s interesting.” / “Oh, is that true?”
Dohwan: “No, thanks.” / “I don’t want it.”
Kiasu: A general term used to describe the highly competitive nature of many Singaporeans. It is originally a Chinese dialect expression that literally means “fear of losing”.
So how?: “So what do we do now?”
Alamak!: A general expression of dismay or incredulity.
Can can!: “Yes, definitely.”
Auntie / Uncle: A respectful form of an address for an older man / woman, respectively.
Lai dat also can?: “Is that acceptable?”
“…noone knows exactly what Spanglish is…” – Antonio Garrido, Director of the Instituto Cervantes in New York.
According to Wikipedia: ” Spanglish refers to the blend (at different degrees) of Spanish and English, in the speech of people who speak parts of two languages, or whose normal language is different from that of the country where they live.
The Hispanic population of the United States and the British population in Argentina use varieties of Spanglish. Sometimes the pidgin spoken in Spanish holiday resorts which are exposed to both Spanish and English is called Spanglish.
The similar code switching used in Gibraltar is called Llanito.
Spanglish may also be known by a regional name. Spanglish does not have one unified dialect and therefore lacks uniformity; Spanglish spoken in New York, Miami, Texas, and California can be different.
In Texas and California a large Mexican population can be found and within that population are Chicanos or second-generation Mexican-Americans. Some of the Spanglish words used by Chicanos could be incomprehensible to Hispanics from Florida.”