Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The English Argument

Never argue with a non-native English speaker about your English. Because you’ll never win. I have done so and failed numerous times, beginning in fourth grade, when a new neighbor moved to Illinois from Switzerland and her idea of a Swiss “hello” was to circle every grammatical and spelling error in my “Neighborhood News Magazine” and pass it along to my mother.

Now that I’m living in Switzerland, I’ve moved on to new levels of English correction. For instance, Germans use the phrase “Something on top” to mean “something extra”. Never mind the fact that I advised that in this context I would not say “something on top” in the headline because it could mean something sexual. They insisted that because they used this English phrase in German and it was clear to them that it would be clear to any English speaker reading the ad. In the end, after much argument, they did change it to “something extra” but wow was it a struggle for them, not to mention for me.

One of the things that happens when you’re advising non-native English speakers on English matters is that you start to doubt your very knowledge of English. Not to mention, things start sounding normal after you hear them wrong hundreds of times. Starting an e-mail with “hello together”, what’s wrong with that? I don’t had an idea. But if you do, send me a mail. It would please me.

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