Engrish – Readers reply with forked tongue

Damn chiat lat man!

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Engrish - the terrifying truth

We have an exemplary bulging mailsack this week regarding punters taking a chainsaw to English. Marco Silvestri clearly think he's the only polyglot on the planet:

About your idiot article on The Reg:

A Language is just a tool to communicate between different people. We can use english, spanglish, engrish, finnish, BASIC or Assembly....

Personally I speak fluently 5 languages.

But you ? I'm sure you just speak English and your local dialect...tsk


By an amazing twist of fate, matey, you're talking to the bloke with an honours degree in Spanish and Portuguese. Five languages? Bet you haven't got anything interesting to say in the other four either. Try this out - Cállate, cabrón.

Enough of that. Got a nice message from a native speaker of Singlish, Mr Huong Choo:

Your piece on The Register about Engrish was great! I nearly busted a gut reading the Singlish example between Ah Kwa and Ah Beng. It's not easy to drop bad habits like "cannot lah!" but after having relocated to the UK from Singapore I thought I had everything under control. And then I read your article - damn chiat lat man.

I'm with you the whole way on that one - good lad. Later in the week, Adrain Furby decided to share his thoughts on the matter:

I enjoyed your brief report on the fantastic ways English gets distorted.

As funny as the instances you describe are, it can actually be argued that Singlish and Japlish are often not actually English at all, but languages like Hokkien, Cantonese and Japanese with English words merely subsituted for the originals, but still using the grammatical structures of the above. This seems to be particularly the case in Japlish, where the ludicrously overblown and frankly grammatically terrible English slogans can make sense if translated back into Japanese. Similarly, you will often find Malaysians and Singaporeans using English words as if they were actually Hokkien or Cantonese (or Malay, or Tamil and so on).

As to why it happens, well English gives a Japanese product some element of "class" (a bit like a restaurant named "Chez Paul's"), and Singapore and Malaysia's populations are made up of a number of cultures, who in using English as a common language find themselves substituting words from their first language when they don't know the English ones.

Quite right too. Stephen Jones chipped in on the matter of Spanglish:

Echevarria is talking about the Spanglish used by hispanos in the United States. However the grammatical errors made by peninsular spanish journalists in high-brow newspapers are becoming even more common. How native educated Spanish speakers can manage to write phrases nobody would ever say in their language is a mystery.

Vocabulary mistakes are also common. "Silicon" in english covers both a gluey like substance used for breast enlargements among other things, and the glassy substance used a a semi-conductor. In Spanish the words are distinct "silicona" and "silicio". Nevertheless, more than one Spanish journalist would have you believe that the "wearable chip" has been developed to stages you would not dream of!

I think you should distinguish between "Singlish" or "Indian English" for example, and the mistakes made by Japanese, Taiwanese and Arab companies in their brochures. "Singlish" is also the term used for the English spoken by many of the English/Sinhala speakers in Sri Lanka and there was a long article defending its use in "The Island" newspaper this December. The point is that "Singlish" speakers are speaking a dialect that is understandable to other speakers of that dialect (and to make fun of it is a pointless as making fun of Goeordgie or Glaswegian). Also "Sinlgish" speakers are often playing with words and are quite aware of the fact that what they are saying is not standard English. On the other hand the garbage we get in many translated manuals is incomprehensible to anybody incapable of reverse-translating.

Incidentally "En qué puedo ayudarle" is perfectly correct Spanish. It's the "loísmo" plus the word "¿Cómo"? that makes the phrase an anglicism.

Thanks for the info. I'm not sure whether I agree with you about 'loísmo' being an anglicisation. Anyone else want to clarify the matter?

Inevitably, we come now to the comedy contributions. And they're quite good. Soup is Good Food writes:

I fail to see how Singalese English is any less incomprehensible than, say, Western Scottish English, or even Western Rhode Island, USA English where "Pahkyacahsidebaheachupdaroadapiece" means to "double park your car further along the road." Then there's Hawaaian Pidgin English, where "Who go when cockaroach da lasters nail?" means "Who swiped my last cigarette?"

And we conclude this linguistic skylarking with this from AVP Australia. Nice one.

New Directive from the European Commission on the single European language!

The European Commission has announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU rather than German, which was the other possibility. Her Majesty's Government has conceded that English spelling has room for improvement, and has accepted a 5 year phase-in plan of a new format to be known as "Euro English".

YEAR 1: In the first year "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sival servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of the "k". This should klear up konfusion, and komputer keyboards kan have one less letter.

YEAR 2: There will be a growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with the "f". This will make words like "fotograf" 20 persent shorter.

YEAR 3: In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. The government will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent "e"s in the language is disgrasful, and they should go away.

YEAR 4: By the 4th year, pepl wil be reseptiv to steps lik replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".

YEAR 5: During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "o" kan be droped from vords kontaning "ou" and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinazions of leters.

ZE FUTUR: After ze fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikulti and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understan ech ozer in ze EU. Ze drem vil haf finali kum tru.

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