Who cares if you make a few mistakes? 言葉を間違えながら話しましょう!

2014.08.01 (Fri)



国の人口の英語話者の割合。クリックしたら拡大。 Click to enlarge.

I’m sure you were told when you’ve been learning English that you need to use the ‘correct’ grammar and pronunciation. But language is a fluid, organic thing that doesn’t really have strict rules. There are lots of English words where the pronunciation and the spelling aren’t consistent, and many examples of grammar exceptions.

If you take a look at the history of English, the reason for this becomes clear. Very briefly, the West German dialect of the Germanic tribes who conquered England in the 5th century became the foundation of modern English. In the 12th century, the Norman conquest brought many French words into the language, and then from the 15th to the 17th centuries, the Great Vowel Shift led to a change in pronunciation after spelling was largely set, which is why the spelling and pronunciation of some words is so different in modern English. And all the time the English language was taking in words from Latin and Greek, as well as Scandinavian and other Western European languages, creating a very mixed language. In the 16th century, the English of that time went with emigrants to America, Canada and the West Indies, and through the 19th century colonial period, the English of that time went to India, South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia and other places. In each place, it mixed with the local languages and developed into stand-alone regional dialects.

Modern English, which is based on that convoluted history, is spoken by 430 million native speakers around the world, and as a second language by nearly three times that number of people. So given all of that, I want Japanese people to know that there is no such thing as ‘standard English’, and so you don’t need to worry if you are speaking ‘correct’ English. Of course, you need to know something about grammar and pronunciation to get your meaning across, but it’s better to focus on whether you are communicating with the other person rather than whether your English is ‘correct’. If you don’t stress too much, and just have a go at speaking, you can generally get your meaning across. Even if your grammar or your pronunciation is a bit different!

On another note, I’ll be finishing my contract with Yurihama and returning to Australia at the start of August. My time here has flown past, and thanks to the kind people of the town it has been a wonderful year. My husband Pete and I have really enjoyed living in Yurihama, and we’ve met so many different people and made many good memories. I want to express my deep gratitude to everyone. Over this year, I’ve heard a lot of American English and a lot of Tottori Japanese, and recently I was told by friends both back home and in Kanto that my English and my Japanese have become a bit different! Language really is a living thing.

It was only a short time, but I want to thank you everyone, and I look forward to seeing everyone again.







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