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The English Language is Multidimensional Indeed!

English is multidimensional

Today I’d like to talk about diversity of the English language. Here at English Harmony I’m focusing on spoken English which tends to be more informal as opposed to formal English as it’s taught in schools. The other day I was reading a blog post by Aaron from Phrasemix.com about differences between formal and casual English and he’s put up a very interesting chart on his blog post about how people from different backgrounds speak.

According to Aaron’s chart, ordinary people you’d meet on the street in your local estate would speak mostly conversational English, but advanced English students, strangely enough, would be quite on the opposite side of the chart having mastered conversational skills of a native English speaking toddler yet their formal English knowledge would be nearly as high as that of a business executive ❗

Well, I have to say that I agree with Aaron 100%, and this is the first time I’m seeing formal and conversational English skills of people from different backgrounds compared in such an interesting way!

But here’s what I want you to consider when looking at the chart. I don’t want you to see how segregated the society is in terms of their English usage. I don’t want you to see that people can be separated by a common language. In other words I don’t want you to start thinking about your personal level of spoken English as something that ranks very low on the chart and puts you in an inferior position.

I want you to accept your English fluency limitations and realize that everyone, absolutely everyone – not just you – lives in their own comfort zone and it’s completely normal. We don’t live in prehistoric times when every human being had to be involved in pretty much the same activities day in day out. Every one of us has different interests, different jobs, different ethnic backgrounds and we also hang out with different people.

All those and a hundred more factors determine what type of English vocabulary we use, and it’s completely normal that you can’t speak and write like, say, your favorite English or American writer. I can’t either, and I’m not bothered by this fact at all because we are what we do and neither you nor me have had the same exposure to the English language as Stephen King for example!

And most importantly – we’re not lesser persons in any way just because we can’t use the same English language used by native English speakers or even foreign English speaking professionals.

Having said this, there’s no denying that improving our English should definitely be on our agenda. I’m not saying at all that you should not develop your English skills, not at all! Even though I said that we should accept our English language limitations, in reality we can constantly keep improving within our personal comfort zones limited by our social status.

You see, both I and Aaron from Prasemix.com agree that spoken English is quite often undervalued and overlooked by English teachers and other English language professionals, and that’s why foreigners tend to stay on the chart’s left hand side.

And that’s the improvement I’m talking about. I don’t particularly care where you’re at on the formal English axis as far as you’re conversationally fluent and you can maintain normal, every-day conversations. On the chart it would be the “local” people level and I’d say that if the traditional English teaching curricula would focus on achieving that level instead of aiming for academic, formal fluency, many of us foreigners would be more fluent when it comes to having simple, daily conversations!

Robby

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • No problems, after reading your blog post I couldn’t NOT mention it on my blog! I’d never seen anything like the conversational/formal English chart you’ve drawn and it beautifully sums up the concept!

  • Robby, thanks for mentioning my blog post. You make a good point that people should not feel inferior because of their level of formal or conversational English skill. We should always strive to improve, but that doesn’t always mean learning bigger words and more “advanced” grammar. Sometimes it just means learning to say “Uh huh” at the right time when someone’s telling you a story.

  • Robby, thanks for mentioning my blog post. You make a good point that people should not feel inferior because of their level of formal or conversational English skill. We should always strive to improve, but that doesn’t always mean learning bigger words and more “advanced” grammar. Sometimes it just means learning to say “Uh huh” at the right time when someone’s telling you a story.

  • Hi Roman,nnThanks for your comment! Well, I think the biggest reason academically taught foreigners lack fluency skills is their focus on the written word. I can’t see why you couldn’t become fluent using formal, academic language, so it’s not really about whether you learn formal or informal language; it’s more about if you get enough speech practice.nnAnyway, since speech naturally involves more informal expressions, phrasal verbs and alike, all you said also makes perfect sense.nnThanks!nnRobby

  • Hello, Robby!nnThis post contains great message, the one I hope will get more and more widespread. In Russia, where I live, most of the academical institutions, such as schools, teach their students the academical type of English. As the result, most of the students come out with the skills that barely allow them to converse in day-to-day situations (let alone in highly stressful business and otherwise working environments). nnA common problem, indeed. Why it doesn’t work is probably because you can’t master a language and use it in specific situations unless you are already conversationally fluent in that language.nnThanks for creating a great blog!