Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Do You Speak English?

When you live in a country where you don’t speak the language on the street – you get excited to hear English – in any form.  When we first got here, my kids would get so excited over everyone who knew even a few words of English.  Now, they have enough Arabic to play with friends, so English isn’t as exciting, but they still look forward to having over friends who speak English – in whatever form.image

One of the things I have learned in this move is that there are lots and lots of different versions of English.  I work with a few wonderful ladies from England who have helped me learn about the differences between British English and American English – starting with the word rubber, which means eraser in American English.  I have also come in contact with teachers, parents and other ex-pats from: Ireland, the Phillipeans, India, Belgium and Canada.  Each of these people have had different ways of saying words that are very familiar to me.  I kept telling myself that “my” English was the “correct” English.  Then, I sat down with a parent from India who had spoken English his entire life.  During this conference, the parent told me how hard of a time he head understanding me, and let me know that his child may also be having a hard time understanding my English.  This conversation reminded me that my English was only one form of this language.  Many people around the world speak English with their own accent and dialect.  Each form of English is the “correct” form of English for that particular community. 

Being a part of the global English speaking community means knowing and understanding English in all of it’s forms.  What “English” words or phrases have ever made you pause and say in your head – “Are you sure you’re speaking English?”

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