Which English Language and or dialect do you speak, and is it Your Native Tongue?
I often have difficulties in fully understanding Americans during ‘in-depth’ correspondence on topical subjects because we speak two different languages e.g. American English and British English. Prima facie the two languages may appear very similar; but there are hundreds (if not thousands) of everyday words that have different meanings in the two cultures e.g. faucet vs tap; hood vs bonnet; Zucchini vs Courgette etc.
Also, in political discussions, often an American understanding of the meanings of words like ‘Fascism’ ‘Conservativism’, Liberalism, and Socialism, is radically different to their meanings in British/European politics.
So which English Language and or dialect do you speak; American English, International English, British English, and or dialect e.g. Bristolian, Scots, Estuary English etc. And is it/they your native tongue.
I speak British English with a Bristolian accent when speaking with the outside world, and the Bristolian dialect when speaking with other Bristolians; British English and Bristolian being my native tongues because that’s where I was born and breed.
I speak British English. Occasionally my north west roots come through with the use of a double negative.I had to download grammarly to get to grips with American spelling.
Coming from the West Country I frequently drop the 'H' at the beginning of words, and drop the 't's in the middle of words like water and butter.
I too, have to frequently look up American words (for their meanings) when corresponding with Americans on social media and by email.
I speak international English. Although American English is popular through pop culture I think my English is more UK English based as I speak UK expats frequently.
I'm Dutch but I think my Dutch accent has vanished over the years by listening to a foreign language as if it was music and copying the sounds of native English speaking people.
I speak weekly with Irish, Scottish and English people, plus foreigners speaking English, which made my own English more receptive to "strange" sounds.
I find English a very versatile language. You can easily play around with it. If you can't find a word you're looking for, there is always a substitute or you make one up yourself. I think that's another reason why so many people speak English.
I vividly remember a trip with the underground in New York and I was flabbergasted by two boys who where having a discussion in rap form. It was pure poetry made on the spot. I didn't understand half of it but it was quite impressive. A language alive.
You have a very valid point. The Celtic languages in the UK are based on languages that are over 2,000 years old, and they haven’t changed that much since; so they don’t have their own words for modern society e.g. technology etc.
Whereas, from its birth (almost 1,000 years ago) the English language became enrichened by the melding of two distinctive languages; Anglo-Saxon (a German based language) and Norman (French based language).
After the Norman invasion of England in 1066, Anglo-Saxon was the language of the peasant and Norman the language of the elite, so words for animals on the farm reared by the Anglo-Saxon peasants, such as cow, pig and sheep, are Anglo-Saxon words; while those same animals served on the table for the ‘Noble Lords’, beef, pork and lamb, are Norman words.
One thing I was taught at college, when I was studying for my English ‘O’ Level (GCSE) exam was that you could often find two words that mean the same thing, the Anglo-Saxon word, and its Norman counterpart; and that the simpler of the two tends to be the Anglo-Saxon (peasant) word e.g. go=proceed etc., and that all the legal words tend to be in Norman because it was the Norman Lords who reigned over England.
That is very interesting, Nathanville, that legal words tend to be in Norman because of the Norman lords. (Except, of course, those that are Latin words or phrases like pro se, habeas corpus, or ad litem.) Our U.S. law is based on English common law, and as a legal editor of 30 years I am glad to know that. As a rural gal, I learned to milk a cow, but I didn't learn to milk a beef. LOL
Yep, from 1066, ‘Law French’ and ‘Latin’ were the languages used in the English legal system until the ‘Pleading in English Act of 1362’ when it then became permissible to debate cases in English, but they still had to be recorded in Latin. It’s wasn’t until the ‘Proceedings in Courts of Justice Act of 1730’ that English finally became the obligatory written legal language in Britain. But as we know (by that time) many Latin words used in law have become established as part of the English language.
The bible translated into Latin by the Romans, remained in common use across Western Europe until the Reformation in the 16th Century. Although I believe the Roman Catholic Church (and others) still use some Latin to this day, but not being religious my knowledge in this area is a bit hazy. 14th century English translations were banned in 1409; so the bible didn’t become widely available in English until King James had it translated from Latin in 1611.
And as we all know, Latin (from Rome, in Italy) is also a major part of science; even to this day e.g. every plant, flower, insect and animal are all given ‘Latin’ names; for example.
#1. The Latin Classification of Humans:-
• Kingdom: Animalia
• Phylum: Chordata
• Class: Mammalia
• Order: Primates
• Family: Hominidae
• Genus: Homo
• Species: Homo sapiens
#2. The Latin Classification of Cats:-
• Kingdom: Animalia
• Phylum: Chordata
• Class: Mammalia
• Order: Carnivora
• Suborder: Feliformia
• Family: Felidae
• Genus: Felis
• Species: Tiger (Panthera tigris), Canada lynx (Lynx Canadensis) etc.
Even words used in modern technology are sometimes based on Latin and or Ancient Greek, such as:-
• Television (Ancient Greek ‘tele’ for “FAR”, and Latin ‘visio’ for “SIGHT”); and
• Telephone (Ancient Greek ‘tele’ for “FAR”, and Ancient Greek ‘phone’ for “SOUND”).
• Automobile (Car); French, from Ancient Greek, ‘autos’ for “SELF”, and French, from Latin ‘mobillis’ for “MOVABLE”.
The origin of the word ‘car’ itself is a little more difficult to pinpoint because it’s a word that is common in all the old European languages.
• The oldest reference to ‘car’ is the Celtic word ‘Karros’ for ‘Chariot’; the Celts being the main nations of Europe before the Roman (Italy) invasion and occupation of Europe over 2,000 years ago.
• The Roman (Latin) word is ‘Carrum’ for ‘wheeled vehicle’
• The Middle English word, derived from Norman (1066), which in turn derived from European Celtic, is ‘carre’, for ‘two-wheeled cart’.
For an example of Bristolian, the title (and chorus) to one of classic songs by the famous local folk music group (the Wurzels) is in Bristolian:-
• Thee's Got'n Where Thee Cassn't Back'n, Hassn't (which means “You’ve got it stuck where you can’t back it out, haven’t you”): https://youtu.be/AnKjwOLiBTg
History of English (in 10 minutes): https://youtu.be/H3r9bOkYW9s
Interesting question. I don't watch some British and Irish shows because they may be speaking English but you couldn't tell it by the amount of the conversation I can understand. The written word is not the same. Our accents and colloquialisms fall to the wayside, for the most part, for even the lightly educated.
As to your comments on defining political positions, I guess we define them by how we perceive the goals of the parties that claim certain positions. So, of course, each government will present itself differently and the citizens of each country will define the terms differently. Left, right, communist, libertarian aren't words as easily defined as apple and orange.
I like your use of apples and oranges as a contrast for highlighting how some fundamental political terminology doesn’t have universal meanings.
I can understand your lack of interest in watching some British and Irish TV shows because their version of the English language is difficult to follow if you’re not accustomed to it. It reminds me of a time when I had a week’s holiday in Scotland (touring the Highlands), when we took a detour to visit Glasgow and spent an evening in a local pub; it took us about half an hour for our ears to accustom to the local Scottish Glaswegian accent and dialect before we could understand what the locals were saying.
When holidaying in Britain, and we get chatting to other holidaymakers the first item of conversation (as an icebreaker) is almost invariably the ‘British Weather’. Then guessing where each other come from, based on our accents, is often the next topic of discussion. Identifying the different accents isn’t my forte, but some people are very good at identifying your location from you accent; although I can easily identify the more distinctive accents such as Liverpudlian (Liverpool), or summerset (zummerzet, as the locals say) etc.
Many years ago the BBC insisted their presenters spoke Received Pronunciation (Standard English, similar to the Queen). The two main forms of Received Pronunciation being the BBC English and the Queens English; only about 2% of the British population actually speaks Received Pronunciation e.g. in London alone the three main English accents and dialects are Estuary English, Multicultural London English and Cockney. These days the policy of the BBC is to encourage regional accents as part of the current pan-European ethos of promoting cultural diversity and regionalism.
You’re certainly not alone in not easily understanding some British accents, even the British struggles at times; as this rather amusing short video clip of Parliament shows:-
Tory MP fails to understand Glaswegian accent of SNP: https://youtu.be/I4k8dR04TzA
Yep, you are right, most people (regardless to their accent, colloquialisms or dialect) do use a version of ‘Standard American’ or ‘Standard British’ English for written communication; or if you’re Scottish then you’ll be more inclined to use written words like ‘wee’, ‘bonnie’, ‘lassie’ etc., which means ‘little’, beautiful, and ‘young lady’ etc., which most British people do understand, so its not generally a major issue.
One Scottish phrase you may be familiar with is “auld lang syne”; which means a long-time ago (years gone by).
Auld Lang syne is an easy one for us. I think every American has looked that up after singing that song. And the Scottish terms are universally known.
It's funny you mention the weather. We were in Ireland visiting family and the kids kept talking about 'a lasher' which we assumed was a major rain storm. We went to the beach, it started sprinkling and they started screaming 'it's a lasher'. I've never figured out if they are just crazy or the Irish have never seen a heavy downpour, or I simply didn't understand the term.
An interesting point: The Irish have over a dozen words (and phrases) for rain because it frequently rains there. I've never heard of 'lasher' but I did a bit of research, and according to two Irish publications, ‘Lashing’ is the 2nd to worse type of rain typically experienced in Ireland e.g. diagonal hard rain that bounces off the ground, and where an umbrella is likely to be of little protection.
The type of rain you described as experiencing e.g. sprinkling’ is nearer to what we would call ‘spitting’ or ‘drizzling’ in Britain, dependent on how wet it was.
So I guess the kids were just over excited, and wishing for a good storm!
I speak standard American English and it is not my native tongue (Spanish).
Wow, how easy did you find it learning American English. I would love to learn other languages, but I struggled to learn English.
Albeit I can read a little French (enough to understand the basics of menus, food labels and posters advertising events) as we frequently take summer holidays in France.
Here in Puerto Rico, it is mandatory in school. So we study English from 1st grade to high school. You'd think that would make it easy for Puerto Ricans and that all Puerto Ricans are bilingual, but that's not the case. It makes it "harder". It is hard to explain. But we're a colony and part of that mentality in most people is that -in this case- English is "superior". Maybe not superior, but internally there's a shame in having an accent or not being fluent, etc. There's also resistance because it's imposed.
That's why, in general, for people here it is easier/faster to learn other languages than to be fluent in English.
I don't know if I explained myself. There's a saying here "Pulseando con el dificil" (meaning arm wrestling with the tough one - the tough one being English language). Some times I feel I'm doing that in Hubpages. LOL
I learned Italian at the University. I can understand a little Portuguese and French.
(My Italian professor asked me to attend his Japanese class. But I could not get past the first day. LOL It was an advance group and I was like a deer in the headlights.)
Very impressive ‘IslandBites’, I wish I could learn other languages like you do.
And yes, you have explained yourself very well to me; I can fully understand what you mean about having English foisted on you because we do see it with the Celtic Nations in the UK; who also have their own languages that they are proud of.
For example, since 2011 Welsh is now (by law) the Official Language of Wales (the only official bilingual country in the UK) and Welsh is now taught in Welsh schools as their primary language. In eastern Wales (that part of Wales closest to the English Border, most Welsh people speak primarily English. Whereas in West Wales (especially the North West) there are small pockets of people who don’t speak English e.g. they just speak their native Welsh tongue. Likewise, English is the primary language in most of Scotland; but the further you move away from the English border, the less prominent English becomes. So in the most northern tips of Scotland, especially on the isolated islands, there are quite a few people who don’t speak English.
One of my favourite videos which gives a glimpse on how remote the English language is in the far reaches of Northern Scotland is of a Shetlander lady who talks about her Shetlandic language in both English and Shetlandic, in some detail: I find the video enlightening because her English is far remote from the English we’re familiar with (so it makes for interesting listening):-
• Christine speaking Shetlandic: https://youtu.be/m0EwquC6wBU
That's so interesting. I didnt know Wales was the only bilingual country in the UK. It is good that their language is now recognized as an official language. Thanks for the link!
In Puerto Rico, Spanish is the official language. For some periods, English has been declared also an official language, sometimes a second language... It has been used as a political tool depending on which party is in charge.
But we are a 100% Spanish speaking Island. Most people know a little English. But I would say less than half of the population is fluent.
Yep, Wales is the only ‘official’ bilingual country in the UK ‘at present’; but there is always the possibility that could change in time e.g. if a point is reached where most natives in one of the other Celtic nations speak their own language then there would be political pressure for their language to also become the ‘prime’ language, as in Wales.
In this respect, the BBC is doing its bit to promote Scottish Gaelic in Scotland (one of the Scottish Languages). ALBA (launched in 2008) is one of the BBC’s Free TV Channels broadcasted in the UK; it broadcasts 7 hours a day and is 100% in Scottish Gaelic; Alba is the Scottish Gaelic word for Scotland.
Cornwall has the biggest uphill struggle to reach a point where it could become bilingual. The Cornish language became almost extinct 200 years ago, and it’s only in the past 20 years that there’s been a revival of the language. So there is currently only just over 500 Cornish people who can speak their own language fluently (known as the 500); but the Cornish population is only half a million people, so that figure isn’t as insignificant as it sounds; and the Cornish language is now being taught in many Cornish schools, so in time the number of fluent Cornish speakers is likely to grow:-
Five Hundred - A story of the Cornish language: https://youtu.be/CBtRKjexr6M
Wales being bilingual can at times be challenging for English tourists. Not only are all the road signs bilingual, but the public announcements are too; with the Welsh being said first and English second. This caused a bit of ‘fun’ last time I visited Wales by train e.g. while waiting for my train on the Welsh platform an announcement was made to inform passengers that there was a platform change, and that the train ‘now standing at platform ….’ was about to leave (which was the train I was waiting for, and which was now on the opposite side of the station, on the other side of the bridge). So after the announcement was made in Welsh, and finally in English, I was left with less than 2 minutes to make a quick dash over the bridge to catch my train, reaching it just seconds before it pulled away.
I believe it's Puerto Rico (there may be others, too) that publishes two copies of its laws, one in English and one in Spanish. I worked for 30 years as a legal editor for our state legislature here and attended many conferences over the years. I met up with the Puerto Rican delegation several times and had nice conversations with them. We were very impressed with these young men (all were young black men at the conference.) and with their command of the languages to do what is a very difficult job in only one language. These young men spoke English to us, but I believe they were in the Spanish division.
I've always regretted that when I was growing up, we had very little opportunity to learn a foreign language. I took Spanish in high school, but the teacher really couldn't speak it very well. Our school had lost its Spanish teacher, and the English teacher was called in to teach it. I learned to read it, but not to speak it. I took Spanish at our local university back in the late 80s. We had a good instructor, but since he was an adjunct teaching an off campus class, we weren't allowed to use the language lab. He said he would not have agreed to teach the class if he had known that. So, I brushed up on reading Spanish, but not speaking it. We do not always have the opportunity to learn foreign languages in the continental U.S. It is the fault of our educators, not the students.
It's never too late!
Yes, I know what you mean. I wish here in PR kids (at school level) would have the opportunity to learn other languages.
It's really amazing how easy is for little kids to learn new languages. One day, about two years ago, I just casually taught some Italian words to my little niece. To this day, she still remembers them. That time, I also asked her some question in Italian (obviously thinking she'd laugh because she'd have no idea what I was saying) and then she answered me in Spanish. <3
'Tis a neat topic you've opened up. We have a southern American accent, but what many, even in America's other states, do not understand is that the range of southern accents is pretty wide. One might think a native Floridian would have a deep south accent, but that person would only have to travel to the country side of the South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee quad borders to find out what a deep southern accent is. Then there is the southern most Louisiana accent that spills over into its shared states, that then lead upward to those specific states' dramatic (and just as lovely) accents. And all that is just a quick look at only the southern-most states.
Looking at a map of the United Kingdom overlaying America is a great way to get a sense of how varied the accents can be. The UK is about one-third the size of America's largest state, Alaska, which all by itself contains an incredible variety of peoples. The vastness of the country means that the average person in America does not understand their fellow citizens and instead of embracing the opportunity to learn more about each other they allow the situation to breed arrogance and division. But that's another topic...
We (my family and friends) enjoy hearing different accents and learning about dialects and languages. We enjoy incorporating what we learn into our conversations and writings. At the same time we are unashamed of our southern accent. It is fun to play it up with people in other places and see their reactions. A willingness to communicate usually clears up confusion and an unwillingness makes things difficult. Being willing to ask and answer questions leads to great conversations. People who often make assumptions about others and never stop to find out if their assumptions are accurate are difficult to communicate with, obviously.
Dialects are fun stuff no matter where a person goes or who they correspond with in this world. Carefulness is key because it's not like we don't have word associations playing into our understanding. Viva regional individuality, but we must remember to be teachable and willing to embrace the individuality of others in other places if we want to enjoy life. When it comes to politics, understanding what the words we use mean to other people is important, but that's true on both sides of any issue. If we deal with those who will not try to understand then we probably waste our time. Thanks for a discussion worth following.
Wow, RTalloni, I’ve learnt more about the diversity of American accents from reading your post than I’ve ever learnt from any other source; thanks.
Yep, I have the same sentiments as you, we also enjoy hearing the different accents and learning about their dialects and languages; and as you say, embracing the regional diversities, which enriches our countries.
You’re probably aware that more than one language is spoken in the UK, most commonly known being Welsh; Wales being a bilingual country, with Welsh as the ‘primary’ language and English as the 2nd language.
But what may surprise a lot of people is that in the UK English is just 1 of 8 languages; the other seven all being Celtic languages:-
• In Scotland; there’s Scottish-Gaelic (Gaidhlig) and Scots (Scots Leid).
• In Ireland; there’s Irish (Gaelige) and Ulster-Scots (Ulster-Scotch).
• In Wales; its Welsh
• In the Island of Man; its Manx, and
• In Cornwall; its Cornish (Kernowek)
If you’re interesting in hearing these other languages of the UK, and learning a bit about their origin, this video below gives a good overview:
• Languages of the British Isles: https://youtu.be/ODeYttUY4VI
U.K. speech patterns may be unusual inasmuch as it is possible to identify social class from a person’s speaking voice. I am from the East Midlands area of England, which has variations in accent and dialect. I don’t use dialect or slang words but my accent seems to have been ironed out over the years, though my vowel sounds are flat as opposed to the rounded vowels typical of the accent that is thought of as ‘posh’ or ‘received English’. This accent is attributable to the aristocracy and the upper middle classes and in the past was taught to aspiring actors in drama schools.
I enjoy hearing the variety of regional accents on our small island (except perhaps for broad Brum, which I find grating, and Liverpudlian). At the moment I am on a weekend break in North East Scotland and find some of the heavy accents and the Doric dialect that I hear being spoken incomprehensible.
What seems to be important about speech (which is an imperfect form of communication) is that we are able to make ourselves clearly understood by those with whom we communicate. So by all means retain local dialect, which is enriching to our culture, but be able and willing to speak standard English when the occasion demands it.
Glenis, your last sentence was a revelation to me. I just realized that I speak two different versions of American English today. I knew that I did that when I was in broadcasting. I purposefully kept dialect and, as much as possible, accent our of my on-air voice. But although I don't have the occasion to do that anymore, I speak on different levels when conversing with people, depending on whether I'm talking to a legislator, a college professor, a neighbor or a plumber, for example. When I was working for the state legislature, I observed that my co-workers and I spoke casually to each other, regardless of our various races, but formally to our employers and guests to our office. In fact, sometimes it felt rather stiff-necked. (Snicker)
Yep, Glenis, whenever I’ve seen opinion polls, Brum and Liverpudlian are always at the top of the list for the least liked accents; although I did love watching ‘The Liver Birds’ BBC Comedy Series back in the 1970’s and I still watch the repeats when they’re aired on UK GOLD.
Although the West Country Accents (including Bristolian) are never going to win any prizes for being posh.
You make a valid point; yes cherish the local regional dialects, but be able and willing to speak a version of Standard English when the occasion demands it. One thing we’ve discovered on our many holidays to southern France and Belgium over the years, is that it doesn’t matter where we go (even in the small French villages where they seldom see English tourists) most French people we meet can speak English to one degree or another (and sometimes quite good English). And often the French we meet are proud to try their English out on us; which is a bit embarrassing, because our French isn’t that good.
Nathanville, I love your question, although we probably will all find some the answers to be humorous. I speak American English with a hill-folk accent that descends from the Scottish ancestry that most of us hill folk claim. It is different in that we pronounce hard "Rs" like the Scottish and use middle English words like "reckon". This, in spite of the fact that I am a born and bred Southerner. The U.S. has so many accents, some of which overlap and it makes it difficult sometimes to tell in which area a person grew up. For instance, I've heard a similarity between some New Orleans, LA and Brooklyn, NY, accents.
Not too many miles from my home, the Southern Delta begins, and along with it, true plantation Southern accents. Now some historians and linguists claim that these Southern accents were influenced by the African slaves and today's African Americans, but I think that can be debated. When I listen to some Englishmen who've never set foot in the U.S. I hear a lot of that same accent. Cockney, perhaps? I also hear some of it in the accent of my Australian friends.
My hill dialect has often been described by yankees as "country" regardless of the class of people speaking it. My co-worker and I were on a business trip to Seattle, WA, and were looking at shoes in a shoe store when a young employee said to another within our earshot, that she "just loved to hear Southerners talk. We sounded so country." My friend, truly insulted, looked at me and said scornfully "country!" We are both university-educated women. I laughed because it wasn't the first time I had encountered this prejudicial statement.
My husband also grew up in the Ozark Mountains, about 25 miles from where I lived, so he speaks mostly like I do. However, he lived in Boston, MA (Bahs ton) for a few years when he was a teen. He used to get on my case for pronouncing "either" as "ee thur". He still to this day says "eye thur". I tease him, but at least he doesn't say "to mah to".
When I worked in broadcasting, I had to assume the "radio voice," a Midwestern U.S. accent, which was purported to be a neutral one. After leaving broadcasting, my native speech pattern and accent has crept back in. I've noticed a change in the speech patterns of children, including that of one of my own. Recently a study claimed to find that American children were losing their accents and starting to speak like the British and Australians, thanks to watching so much BBC. Your words like "straightaway" and "loo" are creeping into the vocabularies of our children and grandchildren. So maybe someday we will all be able to understand each other.
I played your parliament video and I couldn't understand the young Scotsman either. I don't know if it was his accent or his speed of talking, or both. I found it hilarious.
I played your parliament video and I couldn't understand the young Scotsman either. I don't know if it was his accent or his speed of talking, or both. I found it hilarious
That's so funny. I honestly understood 85% of what he said. But I have a harder time with (thick) southern accents.
Thanks for your feedback MizBejabbers, most enlightening; for the 2nd time tonight I’ve learnt more about the American regional accents than I’ve ever learnt from any other source. So it’s been very educational for me.
Regards the Scotsman in the video: It is predominately his accent (although he does speak rather quickly, which doesn’t help). Before I retired, one of my line mangers was a Scotsman so over the years I’d become used to his accent; nevertheless, I had to watch the video three times before my ears became accustomed to Scottish MP’s accent enough to be able to understand what he was saying.
Yes, likewise, we learn a surprising number of American words by watching American TV programmes and films; and although a lot have never caught on in the UK e.g. garbage (rubbish), sidewalk (path), gas (petrol), liquor store (off-licence) etc., some have made a partial impact e.g. although we say a ‘can of drink’, we still refer to a ‘tin of food’, and we still predominantly say ‘flat’ instead of ‘Apartment’.
The most prominent American word in recent times to find its way into the British English Language is almost certainly Google (to google), which was added to the Oxford English Dictionary on the 15th June 2006.
I used to have a similar experience with my wife to your husbands tease of your use of “ee thur” (either). Being Bristolian, I’m always saying “oo arr” (used to indicate agreement e.g. “O Yes” or “that's a good idea” etc.). It just comes out naturally without thinking, which my wife (who’s from Essex) always use to dis; but over the years she’s gradually picked up the Bristolian accent, and some of the dialect, so the tables are a little turned.
Anyone remember the experiment to create Esperanto? What happened to that initiative?
Yep, I remember it.
According to Wikipedia there are an estimated 2 million people, across 120 countries, who can speak Esperanto to some degree; so it’s not quite a dead language.
I can remember back in the 1980s of some people campaigning for it to become the official language of the EU; but it’s not an idea that gained traction, so the concept quickly faded.
This short documentary (11 minutes) below, of Esperanto on YouTube is very informative:-
Esperanto Explained: https://youtu.be/ZJWVOkdWQAs
When I was a little girl, we had an encyclopedia at home. It had a volume that was a dictionary with many languages. I used to read words. I remember reading words in Esperanto. (I had no idea what was Esperanto.) But it got my attention. I still remember fenestro = window.
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