British vs. American English

Was just commenting on another blog and was reminded of those olden times … 2005, when we were a bunch of people blogging in something called Yahoo 360°.  It was a blogging platform, but much more ‘community oriented’ than, for example, here at WP.  I signed up when it was brand new — back then I was a Yahoo Mail user, like so many others, and I guess I saw it advertised.

I quickly became acquainted with four or five people, who — like myself — were interested in layout, customization and stuff like that.  I thought that was great, as I’d always felt like I was the only one interested in this. We learned a lot from one another … we even had «help groups» with chat on Friday nights.

Anyway … apart from all the fun stuff that happened there, one event stands out in my memory. We were allowed to make a certain amount of own HTML [Hyper Text Markup Language] … where you change the font, colours, backgrounds just to mention the very basics of it. A little example snippet of code in the image here.

One evening a woman came in and asked how to center an image and headline in her blog. Easy enough, we thought so Cat and I just told her to type in <center>. She came back — not only one time, but many, and told us it didn’t work. Both image and headline were still aligned to the left.

We were flabbergasted … just couldn’t see where she went wrong with something that straightforward. After a long time of trying, it finally dawned on me: The lady was in the U.K. and she kept typing <centre>.

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learning

We talk a lot about words here at home, Gerry and I. He being a linguist, and me speaking my second language … I think that’s only natural. We’re both interested in words.

Almost not one day goes by, without me having to look up a word in English … check them out, getting the full gist of them. Now, that I have the online tool TYDA.SE, it’s gotten so much easier … Websters online is great, but reading it in your native tongue is different … you get the full essence of it. Quite often I do that, when I feel that I don’t have the full grasp of it after we’ve talked about it. I don’t think it really matters for how long you’ve been gone from your own language — sometimes you need that.

One ‘phenomenon’ that I’ve noticed though … a word isn’t fully ‘incorporated’ into my own vocabulary until I’ve used it. I forget so many words I look up, but once  I’ve used it … either in speech or in writing … they stick! Before, I used to jot them down by hand each time I’d looked them up, and that was a good method. Unfortunately, somehow the computer has made it so I hardly ever do that anymore.

Almost from Day One, online, I’ve communicated with English-speakers. The thing about this is that only THREE persons,  have corrected my English. Two online and one in “real life”. The interesting part about this is that all three were non-native English-speakers! Well … the ‘real-life one’, I guess could be considered almost native speaker but the other  two spoke English as second language, as myself! I, myself could never bring myself to correct anybody else … perhaps that’s the same phenomenon. I admit there are times when I’m just itching to do it, but I’m too afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings.

I can only imagine all the bizarre things I must have said in the beginning, even if all the any good examples escape me right now … and all the grammatical mistakes I must have made  … none, of all the English-speakers I communicated with, said a word to set me straight. I quickly got good buddies online, and I was totally at ease with asking when I didn’t understand. There are so many expressions in the English language that you just won’t learn in another country. For example, a friend told me about how she had been ‘stood up’ and that didn’t make any sense whatsoever to me, but she explained it. ‘To go whole hog’, ‘I made a hog of myself’, ‘there are many ways to skin a cat’ …. the list could go on and on… Have you noticed, by the way, how many of all those expressions are related to animals?! That was a parenthesis, though 🙂

Two words come to mind, that I had problems with: “ignorant” and “eventually”. I had them totally wrong. I didn’t use them, myself, but I kept reading them online frequently, and misunderstood them totally. If you’ve tried to learn a foreign language perhaps you’ve heard about ‘false friends’. These two words were examples of that. All this has made me admire all the people that came to my own country and quickly learned the language! Many of them from countries with a different way of writing too … and a totally different culture to boot.

Rounding up

January 2011 is almost over. I’ve posted every day, so I’m keeping up the WP-challenge The Daily Post — so far, so good. I quickly looked through my list of posts for this past months. There’s been a lot of talk about the blogging itself, but also about weather. «This week’s snow storm» will arrive some time Wednesday. I took this picture on the first day of this month, which obviously was New Years Day. Not much snow then! It’s from a cute little place south of here … Chance Harbour.

When these remaining eleven months are over, I hope to have found a couple of subjects to write about … something that could actually interest people … make them come back and perhaps even interact. They always tell you «write about something you know well».

Well … there are things that I know really well that I absolutely do not want to write about. I do know, however, what it’s like to live in a foreign country … a different continent, even. Still, after seven years, I often think about subtle differences.

I do also know what it’s like to live with and speak my second language. Episodes of loss of words are getting farther and farther between, uncertainty about some expressions and idioms still remain. Pronunciation too.

One thing about English, that I’ve learnt, is that there’s no such thing as taking pronunciation for granted, when I read a word. I have a good example of that … the word AWRY.

I’d read that word many times … I knew what it meant, no trouble there …but luckily for me, I’d never felt the need to actually use it in speech. I would have pronounced it like “awe-ri”. 🙂 Don’t remember now how it came about … how I found out how it’s really pronounced — maybe I heard it on TV or something, but I started to laugh out loud when I realized.

Sometimes, it’s the other way around … words that I’ve heard hundreds of times, I would never take a guess on how to spell. Take the word “subpoena”, for example. How many times had I not heard that on crime shows on TV and never paid much attention to it because I knew well what it meant. It was quite the surprise to me when I finally saw it written.

This picture was shot two days after the first one.

Flickr is a well organized and user-friendly website, so I brought up my January photos there. There’s a tremendous amount of ducks and squirrels 🙂 but that’s what I like to do the most … shoot pictures of birds and animals. I wrote a post about it, one night when I couldn’t sleep.