Everybody's English

Chinese sign with English subtitle
I'm just back from Europe, where I learned an important lesson again:

No one owns English; it belongs to everyone.

As a native speaker of English, a writer and an English teacher, I get stuck in my ways. Proper English sounds and looks like THIS, not THAT.

Hearing someone speak English with a nearly impenetrable accent causes me to work much too hard, I sometimes think. Hearing grammatical errors makes me want to stop the person, a stranger perhaps, and correct the errors. Hearing two people speak English and misunderstand each other challenges me to mind my own business and let them work it out.

It's good for me to get out of the US and confront the reality of English language use around the world: if it works, it's okay.

Danish tourism in English language
"Coke Zero" in a Czech ad

Danish stores with English names
Japanese film ad in Prague, with bits of English

Czech graffiti--"gigilo" is not exactly English, but it's not Czech, either!


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