Saturday, 20 August 2011

Linguistic concerns

It's been four months since I left the UK and it was one of the best decisions of my life. However, one thing worries me - my English. In London I was always exposed to good English through my job, which involved writing emails, translating stuff and being surrounded by colleagues with a feeling for language.

As a backpacker it's much harder to have that kind of practice and I'm already starting to feel the difference between now and a few months ago. My English has never been perfect and it's probably never going to be, but I was enjoying the improvement of the last couple of years. I even started to hope that I might be able to drop the horrible Czech accent, which I really hate; I noticed faint signs of Britishness when I was talking, and some Americans I chatted to over the internet even thought I was British (instead of the usual "Are you from Russia?" guess). Maybe with another twenty years' practice I would have made it...

One thing that surprised me here in New Zealand is how relaxed grammar seems to be, at least in the places I've seen so far (which, I must admit, are not that many). Hopefully the situation will change as I explore.

There seems to be a general consensus to omitting apostrophes; they're missing from street names (Angels street, Dillons Point Road), but also from various slogans and stuff you see around (Mikes farm, Colins vineyard, Peters car). By no means am I saying that everybody in the UK is Shakespeare (apple's and DVD's are my witnesses, I recommend this book on the topic, full of hilarious examples), but I just couldn't not notice. Here are a few more examples of really messy grammar:

  • Due to recent weather conditions and road closes we unable to supply some products
  • We appologise
  • Fire escape proceedure
  • Innovation at it's best
  • Our shower system is currently be repaired 
  • The fridge is gona be cleared today.

Maybe they're just petty things, but there are so many of them, and they proliferate into more official instances, such as insurance company websites ("dont forget to pay thru our online system") or mobile phone companies. I might understand the reasoning behind Vodafone's "trendy" sms spelling, though I find it really annoying to be bombarded with messages like "Thanx, yr VF prepay receivd a credit card top up frm a cust, yr avail credit is $$$"". Most importantly, I believe such a company should realize its impact on the population and refrain from encouraging such stuff.

To conclude, I'm a bit worried about my English, but I guess it's an acceptable price for enjoying this amazing country and not being bound to an office chair.

P.S. I apologise if anyone feels offended by the above statements; please rest assured that's not my intention. I'm simply gathering my thoughts and experiences as I travel and this is what I'm currently experiencing.


  1. That's what I worry about... I can't speak and write in English so good and when I'll arrive to Zaeland, I hope it will be better :)) but maybe that I will go to Zaeland and then to another English speaking country to improve my English (cause it's really my fave language). Just - I have to start somewhere ;)

  2. dont worry about it. unless your english is already well advanced and you risk spoiling it, you can only learn while travelling, and NZ is a good place for that.


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