Archiv für Februar 2011

Transatlantic Talk

I know that some non-native speakers see a problem here. English obviously originated in England. It spread around the world, largely due to the colonisation of other countries. It soon became clear that English would not function as a second language in North America, but as the first and only language. This also applied largely to Canada. It would be logical, to suppose that the English being spoken in so geographically separated areas would soon vary, to suite the local environmental influences: that the one would have difficulty in understanding the other. It’s not unusual to hear someone saying that they are different languages.

My experience with English language training suggests otherwise. True, there are variations. But they are not different or serious enough to create misunderstandings of meanings. It is much easier for a reasonably educated American to understand his British counterpart, than a similarly situated Hamburger to understand a Münchner. There are even parts of the UK with similar pronunciation to the average American. In the very few instances where grammar varies, they cause no misunderstanding. Although, historically, Britain and the USA have had their differences, their mentalities, in general, have remained surprisingly similar.

I can already hear you saying, ‘oh yes, but what about the differences in slang.’ Yes, there are differences, but they seldom amount to ,misunderstandings. And it is a mistake to think that American English is all slang, where British is purer, with little slang. Wrong! British English can contain as much slang as American, but possibly, fewer Brits use it. I have sometimes found myself in conversation with a well-spoken American, unaware of any differences.

And so, back to your problem, dear learner. Well, you haven’t a problem. Either form of the language is workable. Just try to go along with one of them. and try not to mix them (although, it’s not serious if you do). Try to avoid too much slang. Where problems do, in fact, arise for you, the answer is simple: Contact inlingua Düsseldorf / Krefeld!

Applies to:  is true for.
Environmental:  to do with the air, water and organisms around us which affect our lives.
Experience:  knowledge which I have from what I have seen, heard, read, etc.
Educated:  you are educated if you have a lot of knowledge, usually from school or university.
Counterpart:  someone with the same function as me, or similar to me, in another place, organisation, government, etc.
Pronunciation:  simply the way we speak words – e.g. British pronunciation is different from American pronunciation.
Slang:  very informal vocabulary, often not in a dictionary, sometimes used by special groups, e.g. teenagers.
Avoid:  to stay away from something or someone.

The Man in Blue

When I was young, the local policeman (bobby / copper) was someone to depend on. He was normally friendly and helpful. There was the old saying: ‘If you want to know the time, ask a policeman.’ He carried only a whistle (later radio) and a truncheon. A truncheon is a round piece of hard wood, about 40 cm long, formed so that the user could hold it in his hand. This simple weapon was normally kept hidden, in a special pocket, on the outside of the policeman’s trousers.

Now, a copper wears a belt, with various bits and pieces – but no fire arms.

Times have changed. Cuts, cuts, cuts. All we hear today is how public services are being financially cut back, in order to pay off the national debt. One of the more disturbing of these, for many people, is police financing. Every day, we hear or read about the crimes which are  being committed up and down the country. Each new minister who, in the government is responsible, informs us that under his control, the police will become more efficient. Perhaps. It is true, that the 2010 percentage rate of crime, fell by 7%. Well, those are the statistics. Could they be improved?

Suppose British police were armed, as they are in most other countries. Would it make a difference? Would police, wearing guns, reduce or increase crime in the British Isles?

On the other hand, if British police don’t need to carry weapons, do the police in other countries need to? Could you imagine the police  in your country without guns? What would the man in the street think about it? After all, if it can operate in the UK, why not in Germany, Italy or France for  example? Of course, we mustn’t ignore history. Modern UK has only one, now, foreign country border, and that is the Irish Republic. That wasn’t always the situation, and despite recent terrorism in Ireland, no Brit could imagine a war with that country.

I remember, a few years ago, when the general police were asked if they wanted to be armed. They replied with an emphatic ‘No’. Naturally, the British police have weapons available, in case of emergency. These are kept under lock and key in  police stations. And only policemen with extra training are allowed to use them. Otherwise, we may see armed police at airports; but the average policeman has no fire arms. I often ask myself, when I see a policeman in the street, if he would be more effective if he were armed. And in the same breath, I ask myself how life in your country would be if your police were not armed.

I don’t expect answers, – only opinions. What’s yours?

Fire arms:  guns.
Debt:  if I borrow money from someone, then I have a debt to that person.
Disturbing:  if something is disturbing, it makes me anxious.
Armed:  someone is armed if they are carrying a gun.
Weapons:  objects such as guns and knives which can be used to hurt other people.
Border: in this context the line dividing two countries.