Editorial on ELTNEWS.com
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I was reminded this week of how readily we assume our knowledge of English to be perfect, especially when in the presence of non-native speakers. One of my Japanese friends was set to rights about a particular phrase by an American teacher recently. "Thank you for your custom" she was told, is not proper English. The teacher objected to the use of the word "custom" and suggested "business" as a replacement.

In fact, the phrase is correct but the friend was nonetheless guilty of using British English.

Many years ago I remember being bemused by a Japanese friend's frequent use of "Later!" when signing off in an email or saying goodbye in person. Was this some strange Japlish I was hearing? A barbaric contraction of "See you later!"? I set her to rights... but in fact the friend was only using the common corruption she had learnt on a homestay in America when she was young and impressionable. I blamed the parents.

Through TV and films, Brits like me are more familar with American usage than vice versa of course, but I still hesitate to judge when I hear strange phrases coming out of the mouths or pens of normally fluent practitioners. If you're in the same position, do what I do and use Google as a corpus to see whether the phrase is being used (and by whom). You might end up exclaiming, as Larry David often does in Curb Your Enthusiasm: "Who knew?!"

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Until next time.

Russell Willis

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Interesting article - a trend that seems to occur in all languages. As people migrate to new countries and set up language schools, the languages progress at different rates and in different directions in the new country and country of origin.

Many of the language teachers I teach with, have noted their parents bemoaning the language and cultural (another story) changes in their "home" land. Recently, my daughter who was taught French at school by Parisienne teachers, went on exchange to Franklin in Paris, and has continued her language studies in addition to her Engineering Master studies at university, went on exchange to McGill, Montreal and noted the peculiarities of the Quebec French who would speak to her only in English as soon as they heard her Parisienne accent.

Of course, an interesting comment to myself on a visit to the US was "You speak English in Australia". Another was "Speak some Australian." ! A whole new issue........

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