You would think that after I passed the Teacher Certification Exams to teach English as a Second Language (conducted by the US and the UK standards), I would have been invincible to the complexities of the English language by now. While it may be true that I use the language, both in oral and written form, almost as comfortable as using my native tongue, I must admit that there are still instances when English drives me nuts (BIG TIME!). In my introspection, I believe the influences associated with social and regional varieties of American English play a vital role in my perplexity. If this hypothesis proves to be unacceptable, then I just resign to my conclusion that English is simply a “crazy” language.
While some people make sweeping generalizations that dialect is solely equated to accent, sad to say, it is more complex than that. Language books define dialect as a complete system of verbal communication (oral or signed, but not necessarily written) with its own vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar. I am sure a trained American ear can easily attest to the distinguishable “southern drawl” of the Georgian, as well as the Midwestern nasal inflection of Indiana natives, to the variety of the Kings English of the upper class people from Boston. My husband told me once that people from this part of the country speak like the British subjects do. Immediately it gave me a flashback of my short stint in London where I personally witnessed the differences between the American and British use of English. For instance, Americans’ toilet is most commonly referred to as loo/lavatory by the British; elevator is a lift; bus is a coach; and taxi is a cab. Now, add to that the African- American English, which has also its uniquely different tone and vocabulary.
Having said all that, and demonstrating the varieties of English language which native speakers are exposed to, you can imagine why at times my world was a perpetual topsy-turvy. Despite my husband’s assurance that we both speak the same English, I am still amazed of how many differences I discover every day.
With these different ways of using words, I therefore agree with my literature course book saying, “meanings of our words and expressions do not come from the words themselves. Meanings come from lives lived.” They are representations of human experience and our own personal history. I can’t say which English term is better than the other; I guess, it is not for me to judge. After all, I am not a linguist, and worse, not even a native speaker of the English language.
drawing borrowed online
LOOK WHO’S TALKING?
Getting acquainted with different people from different cultures allows me not only to see similarities and differences in our ways of living, but also it makes me appreciate other languages.
According to experts, language acquisition is defined as the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive, produce and use words to understand and communicate. This capacity involves the understanding of varied and complicated capacities including syntax, phonetics, and extensive vocabulary. I agree that capacity to obtain and utilize language is a key aspect that distinguishes humans from other animals. However, to say that non-human animal communication has limited range of non-syntactically structured vocabulary that lacks cross cultural variation between groups is, I believe, too early to conclude.
In one of my reading sessions with my toddler students (2 to 3 years old), we read a story about animals. To activate my students’ prior knowledge, I asked them how each these animals sound pointing on pictures: “how does a dog sound?” I inquired. In my part of the world, I instinctively know that the answer is “aw, aw, aw” as I often heard how our native dogs bark in the Philippines. However, of course, that’s not how dogs in America sound. Hurriedly one of my students stood up and, accompanied with facial expression, he answered, “arf, arf, arf.” This isn’t true only for dogs. I also noticed other variations such as: 1) frogs in America say, “ribbet, ribbet” while frogs in the Philippines say, “ko-kak-ko-kak”; 2) roosters in America say, “cock-a-doodle-do” while roosters in the Philippines say, “tik-ti-la-ok.” What fascinating is I learned from my reading that there are more different sounds roosters make than I thought: in France, it’s cocorico; in Dutch, it’s kukeleku; in German, it’s kikeriki; in Spanish, its quiquiriquiiii.
As Communication Arts graduate I find this discovery very interesting. I am sure that like human language acquisition, theories on animal communication are also controversial and complicated to explain. Thus, having this in mind, don’t forget: when you travel around the globe, be mindful of who is talking; most likely you’ll find that not only its people sound different, but most likely its people’s interpretations to animals sound are different too.