Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The problem: dealing with English | By Peter Krouse | Newhouse News Service

Mac Watson saw the future of the English language aboard a jet about two years ago.
On a flight from Tokyo to Bangkok, Thailand, an Indonesian woman speaking fractured English couldn't make herself understood to a U.S. flight attendant.
But a Japanese passenger could tell what the Indonesian woman was saying.
She relayed the request in a form of English that the flight attendant could understand, Watson recalled.
The two non-Americans then joined with a Thai woman seated nearby to discuss — in English — what had just happened.
More evidence, he thought, that English as a second language has gained the upper hand. While English is the international language of business, it's no longer the U.S. version that everybody strives to speak.
And that's something American executives need to understand.
More than 1 billion people use English as a second language (ESL) along a range from beginner to fluent speaker.
That's nearly three times the number who have learned it as their mother tongue, said Watson, director of the international MBA program at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio. But the ESL version is simpler and without the slang and idioms that native speakers unconsciously use every day.
When Americans do business overseas, the burden to conform is now more on them, Watson said. If not, one non-native English speaker will find solace, and perhaps a business deal, with another non-native speaker.
Watson recalled when a Japanese bond trader came to Baldwin-Wallace so he could learn better English and thus better communicate with his American supervisor in Tokyo. But the bond trader and his Japanese associates had no problem doing business over the phone in English with Koreans, Thais and other Asians at their trading desks.
"The person that needed the training was the American," Watson told a small class on intercultural communication earlier this month at the college. "Not the Japanese."
American speakers of English can learn to speak it like a second language in part by watching their words.
A word like "right" has multiple meanings to Americans but may have only a single one to someone who has learned just the basics. Watson, who taught ESL classes for years in Vietnam and Japan, said directions are among the first things taught, so the word "right" is often understood only to mean the opposite of left.
Watson also cautions against using absurd assumptions, such as "suppose you were me" as a preface to a statement, because it's difficult for ESL speakers to form a mental picture of something contrary to fact.
Gary Yingling, director of business development for the Asia-Pacific region at Rockwell Automation, calls it using "good" English so as not to "lose and confuse." Americans speak a comfortable English that flows off the tongue and includes expressions like "flows off the tongue" — and that throws non-native speakers for a loop.
"Throw them for a loop," Yingling said. "There's another one."
American businesspeople will usually need translators to nail down the finer points of a contract. But when you're having conceptual discussions, it's better for the participants to use a common language, Watson said, and that's generally English.
Word selection is only part of the answer. Those who speak English as a second or third language often do so in the cadence of their mother tongue. More often than not, that means a more equal emphasis on syllables than the more accented English, Watson said. Speaking evenly can sometimes do more to make an American better understood than leaving out words or simplifying tenses, he said.
At Cleveland State University, Benoy Joseph, associate dean for academic affairs in the college of business administration, is sensitive to non-native speakers. He learned English as a first language while growing up in India, but speaks with an accent that can take a while to get used to.
"A lot of faculty have learned, themselves, that they have to slow down," he said. And while some want their foreign students to speak English like Americans, with the same accent and grammar, Joseph believes native speakers should try harder to understand those who speak it as a second language.
Chris Folino, who grew up in the Midwest and now lives in Hong Kong helping U.S. companies get their products made in China, speaks Mandarin Chinese but often uses a form of "Chinglish," especially in and around Hong Kong, where the main dialect is Cantonese.
On a recent visit to the United States he was still dropping his adverbs and adjectives and eliminating his "a's" and "an's" when he got off the plane.
"When I taught English in Taiwan, I would never drop anything," he said, but time is money in the business world, and using only English nouns and verbs is often the clearest way to be understood.
But Watson counsels American speakers of English not to treat ESL speakers as if they are ignorant and to resist speaking like Tonto in "The Lone Ranger" — "Me go town."
It also shows respect to let them finish their sentences without interjecting words. Often, ESL speakers want to practice, and they like knowing they are being given enough time to make their point.
"If you just wait," he said, "many, many good things come to you."

This article was originally published by Newhouse News Service in August of 2003; the service closed in 2008. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Indian Recipes

Friends often ask for Indian recipes. And of course they have to be easy to follow and always turn out well. Here are our faves.

Chicken in a Cashew Nut Sauce

from the cookbook Healthy Indian cooking

  • saute the onions, garlic and cashews before blending
  • brown the chicken before adding to the sauce
  • vegetarian option - replace the chicken with cauliflower and peas
  • such a favorite, we generally quadruple the recipe
  • chili powder here means dried, powdered chili -- North Americans might call it cayenne. 

Quick Chicken Tikka Masala

I've never actually made the kind where you marinate and grill, but this tastes just right and is a big hit with my pre K kiddo. 
  • This is a very mild recipe; try adding cayenne pepper (start with 1/2 to 1 tsp per recipe) to kick up the heat. 
  • Again, for a vegetarian option, replace the chicken with cauliflower and peas

Sweet Potato Chicken Curry

DH regularly requests this. 

Favorite Indian Cooking Resources

Hooked on heat    hookedonheat.com
and her facebook page facebook.com/hookedonheat/

South Indian cooking show from Milwaukee PBS

Hebbar's Kitchen
very helpful cooking videos. On facebook and youtube also. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I have Jet Lag. But I didn't go anywhere!

I live in one of the areas of the United States that participates in Daylight Saving Time. That means that just last week, we moved all our clocks forward one hour. Ugh. So for the past week, it's been hard to go to sleep at the new bedtime. It's been hard to get up in the morning. My body's (and not just mine) internal clock did not get the memo that what feels like 6 am is actually 7 am. People with kids and pets are telling me how hard the change is at home.
All the symptoms of jet lag, but with the added bonus of not actually going anywhere.  ;-)

So can we call this jet lag? I would say yes - it seems that is the friendliest way we have to refer to this sense of being in the wrong time.

The clinical term for jet lag is circadian dysrhythmia. I know this not because I googled, but because growing up, my dad always "translated" jet lag. Just say the words to him and he'll tell you: That's circadian dysrhythmia. (This may explain, in part, my fascination with words.)

Isn't that a fantastic construction? It comes from two Latin roots and two Greek. The Latin roots are circa, meaning around or about, and dia from the Latin for day. Dysrhythmia comes from the Greek roots dys, meaning bad, and the Greek root for rhythm. So what it really means is an interruption to the rhythms of the day. I think it's safe to say we got that last week.

And for some time, I've been reading about another jet-free form of jet lag: social jet lag. Smithsonian Magazine did a nice piece on it last month  Your Alarm Clock May Be Hazardous to Your Health. They credit Till Roenneberg, a professor at the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology with coining the term "social jet lag". The article explains:
... unlike the jet lag you get from shifting time zones, social jet lag is the chronic clash between what our bodies need (more sleep) and what our lives demand (being on time).
There you have it. All the discomfort of jet lag, but without actually going anywhere.

As I write this, I think of my friends who will read it, and can't imagine anyone who doesn't suffer from this lack of sleep. We all have social demands on our time: work, kids, extra-curriculars. And who doesn't delay bedtime for Jimmy Fallon or Netflix?

Want to learn more about Circadian Rhythms? The biggest exposure I have had to this concept has been thanks to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda. But here is a nice article from the NIH http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Education/Factsheet_CircadianRhythms.htmhttp://www.nigms.nih.gov/Education/Factsheet_CircadianRhythms.htm

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why are you telling me?

Before I address language issues, I'd like to extend my condolences to the family of the hiker mentioned below. While the facts of his death have spurred a conversation about usage, his death surely remains a source of great pain to his loved ones. May you all find peace.

One problem with being interested in language is that often times people assume I will share their indignation at the “bad usage” they see in the world. Most of the time, I don’t.

I figure, if you can correct someone’s usage, it means you can understand it. And if you understand it, why are you correcting it? And why does the form of language (non-standard verb form, misspelling, etc) take precedence over the content?

One of these situations came up last week when someone came to me sharing some news from the local NBC site; a hiker had gone missing and there was a development in the story. Since the woman who shared the story is a hiker, I expected some details about the conditions, the trail, something like that. No, I got a rant about the news site's non-standard usage.

Here is a snapshot of the article on that day:

The rant went on about "how can college-educated people say that?" I put forth that this sort of thing is not actually taught in college, and that was actually accepted.
But the rant went on for a few more minutes, something about curtains and people.

Apparently 9news got the memo by the next day:

Our local ABC affiliate didn't change theirs until yesterday.

But why did they change it? The most recent survey of the American Heritage Dictonary Usage panel found that just under 1/3 of their panel approved the use of "hung" as the simple past and past participle for hang meaning death by hanging. And they are not alone. A quick phrase search on Google finds similar results for common usage. Today, the phrase "hanged himself" got me 944,000 results; "hung himself", 628,000.

So again, if you understand it, why are you correcting it?

But really, why are you telling me about it? I know the "rules". But I'm not likely to share your indignation. I can recommend a number of blogs and fb pages where you can rant to an audience who shares your perspective.

I know too many people who have suffered with the loss of a loved one through suicide. Here's a good local organization committed to suicide prevention.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rare Prescriptive Observation

Ok. I would guess many of you read this blog because you're good at the rules of English but you're tired of the sites that just whine about poor apostrophe usage and misspelling.
And that's why I write this. Because while there are "rules", language for me is about communicating and, when possible, having fun.

But when I heard Colin Powell this morning I almost missed the communication because of what I find to be an odd construction:
"I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick with him in 2012 and I'll be voting for he and for Vice President Joe Biden next month."

Did this catch anyone else's ear?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Silent Letters and Saving Energy

If you find this funny, check out this old bit about EuroEnglish http://englishlanguage.pen.io/

Friday, September 21, 2012

From the Neighborhood - nice play on words

This bike shop is in Wash Park and I always get a kick out of the name.