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December 11, 2013

American Englishes

Most of us assume that if we learn a language, we should be able to understand what people are saying in that language.

Unfortunately, that is not always true. In fact in a nation as geographically large as the USA and as mixed as the races, languages and cultures are in the USA it is amazing that we understand each other at all.

And of course, our language...

...reflects this.

You don't have to travel very far to find people using quite different terms for universal experiences like work or weather or relationships.

Take a look at this article and you can see (or even hear) what these words and terms are - http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/12/how-to-speak-american/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=hu-twitter-genera. It is particularly useful to hear the regional pronunciations.

I must admit that I always wonder how this research is done, and how reliable it is. I looked over some of the terms supposedly used in the Pacific Northwest (where I live) and I must admit that I have never heard or used a single one.

I may be a bit biased since my region is also well known for one of the great modern slang hoaxes (you can read about it here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grunge_speak).

Take these surveys with a grain of salt. Slang changes constantly. I tell my students to avoid slang. There are few things worse than using inappropriate slang.

And even you don't visit North America, you might pay attention to American English slang terms as they are used in movies and popular songs, you just might understand one of those regional words and a scene or a song might have a completely different meaning than you first thought.

All I can say is, tread carefully through this language, and be sure to send me any language usages or historical nuances that interest you, and be sure to let me know what it is about language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

Morf

Posted by mmorf at December 11, 2013 11:03 PM

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