What is language for? I was having this discussion with one of my class groups a few weeks ago. The commonest answer was simple – to communicate ideas, information and instructions to others. And of course, that’s true. But language is so much more than that. It carries our history, our identity, our social mores and our values. Even in England, English has many different variants depending on where you come from. Your accent, your metaphors, your slang – all of these are shaped by the area you grew up in. Even in towns a few miles apart there can be wide differences of understanding.
One of my all time favourite memes is the ‘bread roll’ poll carried out by – of all unlikely organisations – YouGov. Their data obtained from almost 25,000 English people uncovered significant regional variations in the names used for a bread roll. I have no idea why they undertook this survey but the results are well worth reading. While a good 52% called a bread roll – a bread roll (!) – the remaining 48% had other ideas for a correct translation. Barm, cob, batch, muffin and more. (Tip – If you’re in the North West then you’re probably safest using ‘barm’.)
Then there’s slang, and here it gets really tricky because a harmless word in one country speaking English can have an entirely different meaning in another. For example, In Ireland, it might be better to ask for a ‘lift’ rather than a ‘ride’ because the latter generally means, ahem, sex. In the States though a lift may get you shown to the elevator. Ask for chips in America and you’ll probably get crisps rather than the French fries you actually wanted. There are many more examples. You don’t even have to leave the UK to become totally confused by slang. ‘Sick’ for those in their 20s means something entirely opposite to those of more mature years. And have you come across ‘boots’ – which is used by teens to say ‘very’ or ‘a lot’.
All of this is just common English use dependent on who you are, how old you are or where you live. It’s true of other languages too. Don’t take a chance on a correct translation. Contact us for a quick quote to ensure you’re properly understood whatever the language you want to use.
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