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How Does Your Grammar Grow?


Shhh!.. @danchaq will not approve! :shushing_face:

I wonder what sort of English they teach around the world nowadays…? When I grew up it was only British English - perhaps a bit of a legacy, like roundabouts and the red post box, from the British Mandate. There was only one TV channel too - the State one, and virtually all the programmes which were not Israeli- were BBC/Thames (still find the tune haunting)/LWT (ditto)/Anglia etc. It was awesome - because the programmes were excellent, and I had someone to blame for my English obsession.
I should check whether they switched their alliance to American English now. Wouldn’t surprise me!


I have lots of Dutch colleagues and friends, and they invariably speak excellent English and all attribute it to English-speaking TV programmes. There is definitely an American tinge to their accents though. I would have thought that the teaching, particularly in Europe, will still be predominantly English but the TV influence is increasingly American.


Well, I suppose it’s internet English in fact, which means pretty much American English sadly!


That (this?!) always amazes me about the Dutch! Most of them seem completely bi-lingual! My Scandinavian friends are the same - such excellent English! I wouldn’t say the same for Spanish or French friends, but don’t know why that might be.

I totally agree that the influence of American TV had swayed things completely the American English way. And the internet pretty much sealed it. When I read the odd Hebrew newspaper these days- there are so many words I don’t recognise. It’s only when I transcribe them in my head, or break them down to find the ‘root’ (in Hebrew most words have a 3-letter root) - I realise they are English words, with a Hebrew ‘frame’ stuck upon them. Very scary, cause this seems to be happening to a huge portion of the language now.

Then again, language is always fluid…


I remember when I was taught French in school, the approach at the time was to teach using sentences. I don’t think most students really learned how to speak the language, but just learned how to order a cup of coffee, or ask how to get to the station etc. My mum was horrified that after 2 years I couldn’t conjugate the verb ‘etre’ so decided to teach me verbs and grammar on the side (she wasn’t a brilliant French-speaker or anything, but clearly had a good teacher). I thought it was really important to get that stuff right, and so was really meticulous about sentence structure and following the rules of the language. Years later, when I was working at a trade show in Paris, I had French colleagues asking me where I was educated to be speaking French like I was - in a ‘you speak very proper and correct French’ sort of way.

The other side of that particularly coin is that I had absolutely no slang/colloquial French game whatsoever. Them’s the breaks!


Have to say I can’t get too het up about the British/American English thing.

I always taught the American equivalent alongside the British to my students. In most international contexts, and for a non-native speaker, American English is more useful than British.


That’s an interesting point! But perhaps not surprising.

I suspect a lot of slang/colloquial bits of language come from total immersion in it, rather than being taught it. It took me probably a good 10 years of living here, before I used slang and colloquialisms, which I now consider an inseparable part of my language.
It accelerated further after marrying my (second) husband, as he’s very prone to use of slang and his sentences are peppered with Cockney rhyming. My first husband was British, but he grew up in California, so the English he spoke to me was steeped in Americanisms. It was all ‘shebangs’ and ‘snafu’ and ‘shindig’… now it’s all apples and pears and Gregory’s. :smiley:


Oh, absolutely. I lived in Bordeaux for a few months while I was a student, but I was surrounded by German, Dutch and English students and so outside of college we were mainly speaking English. I kind of regret that we weren’t more integrated into all things French, and that I never ended up taking an opportunity to live in France. I would likely have ended up on a more European career path if I’d had that immersive experience.


You should never judge someone on their use of a second (3rd, 4th…) language unless you can do better in their language !!

I’ve worked with people from around the world, in some meetings had to actually guess what the real meaning of the sentence was, through the use of questioning, to ascertain their real meaning.

I was taught to send faxes (I’m that old!) in very simple sentences, no more than 3 sentences to a paragraph, with no colloquialisms, TLAs etc and to use double line spacing…this was for the translation into their own language to be written under my original. I even received faxes back with the translations on.

But, I’m from an engineering background…splelling and grummer aren’t natural bedfellows


It isn’t just slang which is neglected. I had French in school for years, and was confident enough to go into a French school for a year at 17. I was more or less competent at literary subjects (I struggled with maths in French or translating Latin war vocabulary…), but had never learned to use the tu forms (except as line 2 of a conjugation).


Perhaps it was because they only concentrate on the ‘formal’ forms, not wanting to assume you would ever use the language in a more familiar way? I can’t think of any other reason…?


Yes, we only spoke to the teacher, not to each other, but that is not really an excuse for not encouraging us to learn to use them naturally in conversation.

The various different conventions for tu in different nationalities of Spanish might be more difficult…


Ah yes! well, that’s a bit short-sighted!

When I did a year of German about 19 years ago, we covered both the ‘Sie’ and the ‘du’ forms and conjugations, and that made sense to me- because ultimately I learnt it so I could speak to my friends, not to my Swiss teacher (my German friends thought it was an abomination that a Swiss should teach us German anyway! :wink: )


So many European languages have the polite/familiar forms of ‘you’. I always wondered if the lack of this in English is one of the reasons for our excruciatingly apologetic politeness when talking to a stranger:

“Excuse me, ever so sorry to trouble you, I was just wondering if you could possibly…”


“Entschuldigung, können Sie bitte…”

Bit quicker…!


If you spent a bit of time in Israel (say, 10 minutes) - you’d soon realise that your theory is faulty. :slight_smile: We got no polite versions to ‘you’, but we have no interest in being polite to a stranger either. Familiarity and ‘brotherhood’ is all around you, drowning you, in fact. I had to escape…!!

But maybe that’s just a Semitic language oddity! :thinking:


Ha ha, fair enough!

In Lebanon, everyone is your habibi, and you are theirs…! Some bloke in a gas station even used it as a single-word apology because he didn’t have a straw for my can of coke!


Ahhh, habibi is such a sweet little word! :grin: it has a direct equivalent in Hebrew, incidentally - we say havivi. Not half as nice sounding :wink:


The thing I mix up most when speaking English is he and she… The reason being that the third person singular is gender neutral in Hungarian. So no he-she-it…


Well, as the speaker of one of the most difficult languages to learn - don’t worry about it too much…
Gender neutrality is all the rage in Brighton :wink:


I have a Finnish friend who speaks Finnish, Swedish, English and Russian, and she claims not to be great at languages!