Stop Being So English!

June 15th, 2007

English is the world’s favourite language (only Mandarin is spoken by more people but most of them live in one country so it doesn’t really count) and so — it is said — that’s why Brits won’t learn a “foreign” tongue. They don’t NEED to.

But it would be wrong to think that there is only ONE type of English: American.

In fact, while there are 800 MILLION speakers of English worldwide, very few of them speak the home-grown version. As a native english speaker, it would be best to remain aware of this.

(Incidentally, cross-cultural expert Neil Payne of Kwintessential, says that English is now spoken more by “foreigners” than those in the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada combined, which makes natives a definite minority!)

I used to work for TIME magazine’s web site. Sure, we were an American magazine based in the UK, but it was drummed into us each and every day that we were a European title with reach into the Middle East and Africa. Big Brother may be exploding and the London Underground hotter than midday on Venus, but what did that mean to a Turkish plasterer stuck in a tailback on a German autobahn.

It may sound terribly PC, but you will do well to remember the sensibilities of the people you come into contact with, not just in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but those in Asia, South Pacific and the Americas (North and South). So in writing online content avoid local colloquialisms and try to respect other peoples’ cultures, customs, pronunciation and even given names.

Think GLOBAL!



Leave a Reply