Friday, December 6, 2013

The Language in Language

So you speak English, do you? I thought I did too... up until a little over 5 years ago.

It all started the day I landed on the country which was to become since then my home. Having brought up in the British education system since my toddler days, I pretty much considered myself fluent in the language of Shakespeare. Up until I got into the taxi from the airport, told the taxi driver the address I wanted to go to, and receiving a blank stare and a idle engine in return. I gave up after the third repetition and was forced to write the address down for him to read himself. The exact same thing I would have done if I'd had landed in Taiwan.

English is not a language, it's a world of languages I have yet to explore. It's not only about differences in pronunciation, or accent, or spelling, or jargon or even slang. It's how one same word can have so distinct meanings in one supposed same language. 

If you want to avoid empty glances or awkward looks, here are some of the first words I learned (the hard way, as always) did not always mean what I meant them to mean:
· Pants: underwear for some, trousers for others. So be sure to tell that you wore (or not wore) the correct ones! 
· Rubber: what some use to delete pencil mistakes and what others use to prevent 'other type' of mistakes... 
· Biscuit: think before you order it: am I a tiny bit peckish or famished?  
· Lift: complete different interpretations of up and down
· Bird: think twice before classifying it as an animal... some refer to their girlfriends with this noun 
· Shag: very utterly extremely important that you get this one right, or "selling a shag" can get you from this to this...

Regardless of whether you speak English or any other language, the common truth is that the more you know, the more you know how little you know!


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