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English Matters

Discussion in 'Education & Personal Growth' started by Ansuya, Dec 20, 2008.

  1. sundarusha

    sundarusha Gold IL'ite

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    Dear Ansuya

    :thumbsupa very good thread. Hope to polish what we already know and learn something new along the way.
     
  2. sumasandeep

    sumasandeep Silver IL'ite

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    Hello Anusuya... very informative and helpful thread...hoping for improving vocabulary

    Thanks again..waiting for ur ideas and more insight :)
     
  3. ShardaSuresh

    ShardaSuresh Bronze IL'ite

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    Hi Ansuya,

    Great thread. Here is a personal experience of mine.

    I was chatting with a client of mine, he lives in the US. I said "I read the requirements, but I have some doubts'. What I meant was I have some questions and need some clarification. As we use the word doubt (in India) to mean questions. (esp when we speak to our professors)

    However, my client understood it as if I was doubting the requirements. Meaning, I thought his ideas was wrong.

    We had a good laugh about that. As he was a regular client of mine I could explain to him the colloquial meaning of that word . If I had done this with a prospective client I have no doubts that I would have lost the contract. :)

    Since you have taken the lead in this thread, I want to ask you something. Can we also mention the colloquial words, which are grammatically correct but may be understood in different ways. If you feel otherwise, I will without a doubt :) follow the rules you set.
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. indian.sanju

    indian.sanju Guest

    Hi Anasuya,
    That's really an interesting one about Advice and Advise. Thanks You! its really helpful. Nice to see so much of response from the people. Looking forward for more like this.

    Thanks
    Sanju
     
  5. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    Sundarusha, Suma, and Sanju

    Welcome to the thread, and thanks for all the positive feedback! I really do appreciate all the support, and it feels great to know that this is actually being of help to you all. Please don't hesitate to give ideas on how I can make the explanations clearer, ask questions, or offer any other suggestions for improvement.

    Srama, thanks for the great question. I had to research the answer, because while I "instinctively" know which one to use myself (just from how it sounds), I was quite ignorant of the rules govering usage. So, I'm very happy that I am learning from this thread as much as everyone else.

    Srama asked when it was appropriate to use "I" and when it was appropriate to use "me" in a sentence. I have started my explanation with background and grammar - if you want to skip all that and just get to the good stuff (the practical solution to the problem), skip ahead to the point in my post marked ***.

    Before I start, I need to define the following terms that will be relevant to this discussion:

    "I" and "me" are what we call PRONOUNS - a pronoun is a word that stands in for a noun.

    The use of "I" or "me" depends on whether the pronoun is being used as an OBJECT or SUBJECT of a sentence.

    Very simply put, a subject performs an action, while an object has an action performed upon it.

    Here is a simple example of this:

    I am going to the store today - "I" is the subject (performing the action)

    He is always doing favours for me - "me" is the object (receiving the action)

    Now, even if you don't understand all the pronoun/object/subject mumbo-jumbo up to now, you'll still "instinctively" know which is the right word to use in the above examples - after all, we wouldn't say

    Me is going to the store today.

    OR

    He is always doing favours for I.

    because we just know from the sound of it that it is wrong.

    The difficulty that Srama brings up (and rightly so) is when we have two objects in a sentence:

    He wanted to go the movies with my sister and me.

    OR

    He wanted to go to the movies with my sister and I.

    where "sister" and "I"/"me" are the two objects in question.

    In this case, people are tempted to use the more formal-sounding "I", because somewhere along the line, we got the idea that this was how "proper" English was spoken. However, the rule states that "I" should be used as a subject, not an object, and in the above sentence, "sister and me/I" are objects, not subjects.

    ***I am sure I have scared away half the people reading this thread with all the technical, grammatical explanations so far (I'm getting a little frightened myself, to tell you the truth). Luckily, you can safely ignore all of the above in solving this problem because there's a simple trick to figure out whether to use "I" or "me", and here it is!

    The trick is to think of the sentence as having two separate objects. So formulate it like this:

    1. He wanted to go the movies with my sister.

    2. He wanted to go to the movies with I.

    3. He wanted to go to the movies with me.

    Right away, we can tell that the second sentence just sounds wrong. Therefore, "me" would be the correct choice, and our final, correct sentence should read

    He wanted to go the movies with my sister and me.

    Here's another example:

    My cat and I love to take long afternoon naps.

    OR

    My cat and me love to take long afternoon naps.

    If we separate the sentences, we get the following:

    1. My cat loves to take long afternoon naps.

    2. Me love to take long afternoon naps.

    3. I love to take long afternoon naps.

    In this case, the second sentence is clearly wrong, just from the way it sounds. So, the correct form should be:

    My cat and I love to take long afternoon naps.

    This corresponds with the rule, about "I" being a subjective pronoun, and "me" being an objective pronoun, since "cat" and "I" are the ones performing the action here, and are subjects of the sentence. However, you can get by even if you just ignore all the rules, and go instead by the sound once you separate the sentences.

    English can be depended upon to have exceptions for every rule, but I'm not going to go into those here, as I believe that exceeds the scope of this thread.

    Congratulations to those who have made it to the end of this rather wordy post! If I've confused you in any way, let me know and I'll be happy to clarify. Srama, I hope this answers your question sufficiently, and once again, thanks! This is exactly the kind of query I was hoping to get.

    Ansuya
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2008
  6. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    Padma

    I've been pondering the "isn't" we Indians sometimes use at the end of a sentence:

    No one would want to be called a liar, isn't/isn't it?

    I'm not sure why we do it, and it is incorrect in terms of sentence structure (although I do kind of like it for how it adds emphasis and character!).

    The more correct use of the "isn't" construction (made up of the words "is" and "not" and followed by "it") comes at the start of a sentence:

    Isn't it true that no one would want to be called a liar?

    The best explanation that I can come up with is that it is a substitute for the "nah" I sometimes hear at the end of Indian sentences. I can't speak any Indian languages, so I am at a complete loss here to identify the Indian language or region in question, but I seem to recall that some Indian people use this sound as an affirmation at the end of sentence. Anyone who has some insight into this matter, please jump in! Or maybe I'm just imagining things...

    I know some English speakers also do that at the end of a sentence:

    No one would want to be called a liar, hmmmm?

    It's an affirmation at the end of a sentence, stimulating the other person to respond and agree. I suppose most languages would have some sort of equivalent sound or expression.

    I don't think it's a cardinal sin, but it might confuse someone who is not familiar with Indian English. So again, I guess it's okay to use depending on the context and audience.

    Ansuya
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2008
  7. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    ShardaSuresh

    Thanks for the encouragement, and sharing your story with us. This is exactly the kind of thing we are looking to discuss, and it is well within the scope of this thread. The only "rules" we have here is hopefully, no flaming or other unpleasantness that would alienate people - we want everyone to be happy and comfortable in participating here.

    I was not aware that the word "doubt" is used the way you describe in the Indian context, and I can see how confusion arises when talking to someone who does not understand the word in the same way. In the Western context, "doubt" literally means to be undecided or skeptical about something. So, you are saying you do not believe in something, or are questioning its validity.

    This has some connection to wanting further explanation or clarification, but as you so perceptively noted, this is generally not how a non-Indian would express that feeling. To use the word "doubt" has some negative connotations (insecurity, unsureness, wavering, hesitation, etc.), so it is clear how your client took it to mean that you were questioning the requirements, not that you needed to clarify.

    It is good you were able to laugh with him about it and resolve the confusion, but as you point out, there is potential for harm, especially in the professional world, when two people have different frames of reference. The only way to overcome this is to be aware of the difference, as you are.

    I would welcome any and all discussions of colloquial words/phrases/expressions used in Indian English that may not be used in other types of English. Like I said, we don't have to eliminate these unique features of our language use - just be aware that others may not understand, or worse, misunderstand, and we have to adapt accordingly.

    Here are two Indian-English words/expressions that initially confused me:

    1) The word "prepone" - when I went to India for the first time, I was mystified at how everyone used this word and I had never heard it before (and up to that point, I had always considered myself to have a fairly good vocabulary!). Then I did some research and found out that in India, this is a common word that everyone uses as the opposite of postpone (so, to bring a date or time forward). It's remarkable, though, that it is not in common usage anywhere else that I've been. Does anyone know where else they say "prepone"? Anyway, a perfect example of how the English language is constantly evolving.

    2) I have heard Indians say "freak out" when they mean "to have a really good time, go wild, enjoy yourself". I am more used to "freak out" meaning "lose your temper, go insane, have a small nervous breakdown, hit the roof, etc. as in "My father freaked out when he heard I had disobeyed him". Since one meaning is happy, and the other the opposite, there is potential for some confusion here. An Indian friend of mine explained that if you took it to generally mean, "to lose control", it would fit both contexts, which is one way of looking at it. But like ShardaSuresh has pointed out, even with similar shades of meaning, the potential for misunderstanding is great.

    Please share your views on this, and add to our list of colloquialisms peculiar to Indian English. Thanks, ShardaSuresh!

    Ansuya
     
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  8. AbhiSing

    AbhiSing Gold IL'ite

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    Hi Ansuya

    Thanks for explaining clearly.Will follow this thread. :2thumbsup:
     
  9. ShardaSuresh

    ShardaSuresh Bronze IL'ite

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    Hi Ansuya

    I think the word prepone has made it to the British dictionary. However, this editor still gives me a spelling error.

    In today's professional setting we spend more time chatting than speaking on the phone. That is why the possibility of being mis-understood is very high. However I find one thing very encouraging about both my European and American colleagues is that they make an extra effort to understand us. They don't jump to conclusions very fast and have a very high tolerance for grammar errors.

    Here is another example: One of my friends was very offended when a client asked her about the sex of her unborn child. In the US there is absolutely nothing wrong with this question, however in India, sex determination is illegal. And more important it is politically incorrect. When my friend informed this to the client he had a light bulb moment. :idea . Not a big issue, but in a global world it is important to know about the social and cultural background of the people you work with. This is an example of educating people from other cultures about our social issues and reminding them to play by our rules too.

    Never say
    1. A Jew (to indicate a miser)
    2. commie
    3. Negro (or Nigger, African American is the correct word)
     
  10. Ansuya

    Ansuya Platinum IL'ite

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    ShardaSuresh

    You're right, I have also read that "prepone" is now in the Oxford English Dictionary, but it is still a word that originated in India and so even though it is in the dictionary, that is no guarantee that many people outside India would have heard of it (unless they're reading our thread!). This is what I meant about how language evolves - Indian people may not have invented the English language, but like so many other groups around the world, we are adding to it.

    The example you give of the give-and-take of inter-cultural interactions is interesting. I am of Indian descent, but I know that India's laws about sex determination of babies, and more importantly, the social and cultural reasons behind it, are not even widely known among South African Indians. So, as you say, you can't always assume people know about these things even if they are working with you, and even if they have tried to research your context.

    It's difficult to predict or expect what they should know, what they must know, etc. After all, there's so much stuff to know, and Westerners haven't been exposed to our culture as we are constantly bombarded with theirs (on TV, in movies, etc.). Which means, as you so rightly put it, that we have a responsibility to discuss these things openly with them, and so educate them in our ways.

    It is good that you have brought up those three derogatory words that should be avoided (at the end of your post). I have heard the word "Negro" being used in India, and it was always done in innocence. But people should be aware that it can be offensive. However, "Commie" and "Jew" (for a miser) are even more offensive, and should be avoided at all costs. As for the other "N" word, it is entirely unacceptable and so offensive that I can't even type it!

    Here's an interesting side note about South African Indian English - since we have a terrible past marred by legalised racial discrimination, South Africans are particularly sensitive about racial epithets. The derogatory word for South African Indian is "coolie". Say that to any South African Indian, and you're likely to get punched in the face - we're not as calm and peace-loving as the folk in our ancestral home seem to be, since we've taken so much flak in the past! Imagine my shock and horror when I went to India for the first time and heard and saw the word bandied about freely at the train stations!

    I did calm down when my husband explained what it meant in India, but it still unsettles me every time I hear or see it, conditioned as I was from childhood to regard it as a terrible slur. But to an Indian person in India, it is just another noun that is perfectly acceptable (I'm assuming). So, we should never underestimate cultural context when we use language, and we should always be aware that no matter how much we think we know, there's still something out there we might have missed. It all depends on the person to whom you're talking.

    Great discussion point - thanks for bringing it up, ShardaSuresh!

    Ansuya
     

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