Thursday, November 19, 2009

On Be Look Professional

Many years ago (1967 or so), I bought a wonderful Yamaha 250 cc motorcycle, the manual for which had this instruction for shifting gears:
Tachometer tells the moment to do.
Unfortunately, the RPMs given for gear shiftng kept this very fast motorcycle operating a little slower than a motor scooter. One evening, I told a friend who had ridden behind the original owner that the instructions couldn't be right and he offered to ride behind me and tell me when to shift. He did not look at the tachometer. He used his ears. I suppose the manual could have said.
Ears tell the moment to do.
Once I got the pitch right, I was golden. I suspect that some junior executive at Yahama persuaded his bosses that his English was excellent and he could ably translate the manual. On balance he didn't do badly.

Today, I happend across a web site while hunting for information as to what might be down the line for Blackberry phones given the buzz surrounding the iPhone and the new Androd phones. I came across this paragraph.
The Blackberry mobile phones are looking professionals and stylish mobile phone with can peoples are attract to this phone. Blackberry is the smart phones which is the most popular in the world with its charming features. It offers accessibility to an extensive variety of applications many wireless instruments across the world. It provides accessibility to an extensive variety of applications on several wireless instruments across the globe. by data and other services.
This piece of prose shocked me even more than that Yamaha manual.

This articale comes from Weblineindia, a link to which is associated with the blog title. That's what's shocking. If I have prejudices in regard to India, they are (1) Indians are very smart and very well-educated; (2) Many if not most Indians know English either natively or fluently; and (3) India has a bunch of great cuisines.

I clicked on the link and the first paragraph that popped up was this one:
Now a day ecommerce is a very popular among the internet users, so what is Ecommerce? People are habituated to sell and purchase their products or any types of items on the internet, its called ecommerce, and to online sell products you need ecommerce web...
So, it only gets worse. It is possible that these articles were written in some regional Indian language and run through some bad translating program. More likely, we are dealing with people who have big brains (see prejudice 1 above) but smal English language centers (see apparently false prejudice 2).

These articles are represented as "free content for your website or blog," which further confirms the axiom that you get what you pay for. I know that what I am writing is rather snobish, possibly even mean-spirited, for I would seem to be making fun of people who are, after all, doing their best. To that, I say, "bullshit." If I planned to publish something in German or Spanish I sure as hell wouldn't translate it myself.

Surely, if you are actually trying to inform people, to say nothing of sell things to them, you will want to do better than this:
The Blackberry Solution is used to access mobile email and personal information. Also other of the self applications are also used. But the development Blackberr software for the solution of Blackberry. Also Blackberry application, for assistance if issues arise.

This reads as if they are offering some sort of spyware ("access personal information"). If that isn't true, then they are very engaging in linguistic self-abuse.

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Blogger Mrs. Geezerette said...

I have never run across instructions that poorly written, but I have encountered some that obviously were written by somebody who struggled with English.

What is most frustrating for me and my husband is when we need tech support of some kind and end up talking with a person who lives halfway around the world and has a heavy duty accent. We have wasted more time on the phone saying "Pardon me, but I can't understand what you're saying."

12:09 AM

Blogger Asma rizwan said...

Hi,am an Indian and often come across such English. English too here is like the famous india Shining Campaign. Perfect in some pockets and hilarious at others.We have given birth to a new language Hinglish which is the native Hindi+ English. World be ready for Hinglish! coz it will soon capture the web

12:34 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

In a BBC web article, it says "Hinglish - a hybrid of English and south Asian languages, used both in Asia and the UK - now has its own dictionary. Is it really a pukka way to speak?" As in the creation of pidgins around the world, contact between populations -- in this case Brits speaking English and Asians speaking Hindi, Urdu, etc. seems to have been the origin, according to the article.

I am wondering whether this is a pidgin or has evolved into a creole. The fact that it is used in ads and TV shows doesn't cut either way. The existence of a dictionary suggests that it has stabilized but that need not be true. I wonder if there are sub-populations who use it as a primary language. That is a characteristic of creole languages.

10:37 AM

Blogger Icarus said...

Indian English is fast becoming a Creole. It's true that many people in urban India speak English, but what they speak is far from being grammatically correct, and heavily influenced by the local language which may or may not be Hindi. In fact, I have noticed slight variations in the English spoken in different parts of the country, and may well mean the formation of dialects in the future. There is a sub-population that uses Indian English as the primary language - it's the yuppie population, especially the migrant software engineers. But I guess this language is still in its infancy. The dictionary the BBC article mentions seems to be intended more for entertainment than reference.

11:01 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Thanks for your comment, Icarus. What you are likely to find is what is called a "Creole Continuum," where at one end there is standard Indian English, which will be relatively easily understood by Americans, Brits, and Aussies and at the other, variants that will likely not be understandable to these other English speaking people.

Given the size of India and the internal language and dialect variation, there may be a number of versions of the "bottom" layer of the continuum. As my use of "bottom" suggests, the bottom levels will be stigmatized as being associated with poor, uneducated people.

12:03 PM


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