Misplaced words and common sense


With a bad memory like mine it would probably make sense to make a directory of frequently answered things. Or use the search engine on my blog more often – as a matter of fact I like to talk about things I am passionate about more then once. But even if you have read the following topic in a posting by me (then the words “Hi I am Randy” should ring a bell) I am sure I added a new twist!

The following text of mine answers a question on the SL Forums (I thought they were supposed to be killed?) called “A rant about poor English” by Fmeh Tagore in which he (?) starts off with saying that he does in fact accept poor english (probably does not like it, but hei) but goes on:

What bugs me is when people use gangster-speak to cover up for having poor English. I find it completely unnaceptable, and I will rank on someone every time for using it. There are a few posts on these forums where someone from a place in which English is not the native language has been trying to act as if he’s in a gang, as if it will somehow get him more respect than if he just posted his natural poor English. I just don’t get it.

I’ve added some hopefully working explanations to the thread and also (the twist) added a link to another thread in the forums where they are talking about a perhaps obscene profile and have a full page of descriptions I cannot make anything of (that parts starts at “Not even knowing what we get ourself into).

Now for my answer:

Assuming that the original poster really was serious about the topic, I would like to add some thoughts.

There is more to gangster speak – never assume intention when it can be explained by pure stupidity.

First some words on the poor english itself.

Word order
English is a very restricted language. German for example has the possibility to set part of the sentence nearly everywhere due to the word endings – they ensure ‘the position’. Single language native speaker of English *really* do have a problem with understanding such sentences.

It is very hard for a German speaker to get this and therefore they do sound “yoda” from time to time (or more often). It is my observation that people who are in contact with spanish speaking people often are ‘softer’ on this topic because they already seem to be used to “strange” stile.

If you encounter this kind of problem, try to adapt yourself a bit to it or at least recognize that it is this kind of problem. This has nothing to do with knowledge or skills, this is just your training since childhood, it is absolutely natural to you, and you usually find it irritating how somebody could not get this.

Just as it is irritating, strange and time consuming for me to try to put the words in the correct order. Or for example – because this is how it is handled in German – say ‘the computer who just crashed’. You are probably looking for the missing person (it would be “the computer which”), but in German the computer is referred to in male form, so “who” is in my mind with the female / male gender and “which” would describe a neutral gender. As things have no gender in English, my brain takes over and uses the German gender.

You do have some of those, though. The ship, cat = she.

if you encounter something like this, and you are at least interested, give the other person an idea why you have a problem, tell them you don’t understand them.

“I am sorry, but your sentence makes no sense to me with this order of words. Could you try and rephrase it?” should remind a non native speaker of his or her training lessons in school where the teacher put emphasis on that.

idioms / range of word knowledge
As native speaker you are fluent in your idioms and which words to use. Non native speakers do learn a special vocabulary they feel comfortable with and use it all the time. My favorite words are “stuff” and “things”. I made a quick count and can come up at least 10 different words like that “stuff” in German. Language seems limited when you talk to a person.

Note that you are bothered with the limited amount of words of a person which is a second language to him. (They will be happy to speak in their natural language to you and give you a chance to see how sophisticated they can be. Well, are those few lines of english starting to make sense to you?)

The basic vocabulary afaik is around 2000 words – and with that you are already in good business for speaking english. Writing is even more restricted – one has the natural tendency to avoid words which you are not able to spell.

It is normal to use your natural idioms – only to learn that most of them are not valid in English. So you not only have to loose your favorite idioms and the way you translate what you want to say, you also have to learn new strange ones. Talking about cats and dogs here – something which is so funny if taken literally …

‘Misplaced’ word, false friends, common words.
As with favorite words, you also have favorite mistakes. ‘Misplaced’ is one I encountered several times now. What I wanted to say is mistake / confuse and especially with word order in sentences.

It makes perfect sense to me as a German to say ‘misplaced the words (in order of the sentence)’. It usually makes no sense at all for native speakers to the degree of being highly puzzling.

Tenses / Grammar also is a point: You will never be as good with tenses and grammar than you are by default in your natural language. Don’t ask me why I use tense xyz in German, I know it is right. To do it correct in English I need to *know* which time I want to use and also need to know if there is a difference in how tenses are used in English (there is – it is much stricter).

So again, it is not only translating but transferring knowledge which makes it harder for pure natural speaker to understand.

False Friends as in common mistakes like for example describing somebody as brave when in fact I was searching the translation for well behaved (brav in German).

This link gives you a list, just look at the english words on both sides and you will note the huge difference in meaning.

Coming from German, these are mistakes Germans are highly likely to make – other languages have the same problem.

Not even knowing what we get ourself into
This thread about an obscene profil (or not) brings up a whole new dimension in talking to each other: culture and values. Shit is more just a word for me with no other meaning and while I do not say it that often in German (scheisse), shit is softer / not as hard to me because of the different language. I do prefer shoot but mainly because I like the sound of it.

The thread in question is here and let me tell you: Obviously there are some differences in word usage I do not see. NOTHING on that page has any meaning to me in obscene meaning even if I would try to put on the more restrict american view on it. It just does not tell me anything.

I heard of a guy who went to the UK and had to learn the hard way to change his nickname in real life. Running around introducing yourself as ‘Hi I am Randy’ seems to mean “Hi I am horny”.

If you take all of this together, it may be more understandable why some non native speaker tend to speak fewer words (additionally shortened by chat language which makes it easier), make unusual spelling mistakes nobody does (our words train our fingers differently than with english words which is why one makes those unusual mistakes) and why they speak funny.

Which still is no reason to have patience with idiots who are incapable of expressing themselves and are just morons. In any language possible. :)

Which brings me to the point of the original poster:
Additionally to the challenges described above most people still are not 10-finger typers, so typing takes time. And they are in an interactive game where others manage to talk fast and fine english – well kind of. Most conversations I observe accidentally are full of abbriviations and alike – just by native speaker meaning there is a little more meat to it.

I am not saying you should pity them. But you should give them a chance to learn.
Why not make a notecard and hand it to such people? If you take the effort of ranking them, you can instead make the more useful effort of handing them a message url for example to this thread.

Back to the morons: It that is a teenage boy giddying with fun over the cool sex babes running around and offering ‘making love’ all the time, is it a wonder that they feel this is natural? And all the bling and shiny shiny? Male predominantly in Arnold Schwarzenegger mode (back when he was Mr. Universe) *That* for me more gangster style than anything else.

And you wonder why such people get the impression it would be okay to talk this way? :)

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