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10-09-09, 04:55 AM   #1
v6o
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Is it harder for native english speaking to understand broken english?

I've come across a lot of people and forums where someone talks or asks a question and if they don't use punctation and or proper grammar then some people just won't understand.

My mother tongue is not english, and in school we spend a lot of time on learning english and the grammar. Could that be why I have it easier to understand even if some words are in a incorrect order and if the wrong grammar has been used. Personally I can just read most of them just fine and I don't think about.

We spend a lot of time on not only english but also our own language until we can almost disect sentences to adjectives, verbs, noun and so on in our sleep. (Maybe it was just my class? Who knows)

Maybe it is easier if you read it out loud?

Out of any interest, I am Swedish.
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Last edited by v6o : 10-09-09 at 05:02 AM. Reason: edits don't make good topics...
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10-09-09, 06:16 AM   #2
Wimpface
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I'm Swedish, yet I find it extremely hard to understand "broken English". Could just be that I'm used to flawless English as my relatives/dad are all English.
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10-09-09, 06:19 AM   #3
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I gotta be honest English is my first language and I do have a tougher time when words are out of place. Even occasionally sometimes punctuation might screw me up but the weird thing is is that I have an easier time talking to people who may not use words in their correct order. It is rather an interesting question curious to see what others have to say about it.
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10-09-09, 06:24 AM   #4
Akryn
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I can only speak from my own experience; but no, it's only slightly harder to read mis-punctuated English than "proper" English. Similarly with minor grammar errors, up to a point of course. I think that a lot of people see bad English and just refuse to bother reading it (which is understandable, really).

Also, this may or may not be applicable, but a lot of people will complain about bad grammar by facetiously pretending that they can't understand it: "What does 'runned' mean? Is that English? I've never seen that word before!" even though it's perfectly obvious what it means.
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10-09-09, 06:51 AM   #5
shkm
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I'm a native English speaker and I'm not sure what to say. Many British (I'm one of them) have very little grasp on the language unless they put in a conscious effort to learn it. When I was at school my English was far worse, and teachers would not strictly correct any grammar or punctuation. It's as if these aspects of the language are considered unimportant.

In any case, in my attempts to learn another language I have probably learnt a lot more about English. It helps open your eyes to what the person could have been trying to say. Gives you a different angle.
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10-09-09, 06:56 AM   #6
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From my experience, it depends on whether or not it's "broken" English (aka as spoken by a non English speaker who only has a rudimentary understanding of the language) or if it is "lazy" English (as used by many English speakers online). "L33T speak" is a form of "lazy" English. Since I an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, I can usually spot the difference. I am much more tolerate of "broken" English than I am of "lazy" English. I usually don't even bother trying to decipher "lazy" English.

Originally Posted by shkm View Post
I'm a native English speaker and I'm not sure what to say. Many British (I'm one of them) have very little grasp on the language unless they put in a conscious effort to learn it. When I was at school my English was far worse, and teachers would not strictly correct any grammar or punctuation. It's as if these aspects of the language are considered unimportant
I find that rather interesting as I went an American public school system in Montana for my entire primary/secondary education. All of my grade 1-6 teachers and my grade 7-12 English/Literature teachers hammered both grammar and punctuation as well as spelling. This was particularly true in high school as bad grammar and punctuation could mean the difference a good grade on my homework and having the "talk" with my parents. My teachers were successful in hammering home the point of good grammar, punctuation and spelling as I, even now 15 years after I graduated high school, continue abide by my education even online.
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10-09-09, 06:56 AM   #7
v6o
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Could it be that some people just feel they don't have the time to devote to reading and just skim through and actually miss parts or misinterpret the actual message, even when it's broken english.

I know I have a few times, rare as they may be, it has happened. I don't do it unless it's properly written or in my native tongue though.
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10-09-09, 07:06 AM   #8
Zyonin
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Originally Posted by Yourstruly View Post
Could it be that some people just feel they don't have the time to devote to reading and just skim through and actually miss parts or misinterpret the actual message, even when it's broken english.

I know I have a few times, rare as they may be, it has happened. I don't do it unless it's properly written or in my native tongue though.
Speaking for myself, again as I am an ESL teacher living overseas, I do tend to take the time to read the message if it is in "broken English". However that is likely related to the fact that I don't expect those around me to speak to speak English in a clear and easy to understand fashion in part due to knowing how difficult it is to learn another language, especially one as difficult to learn as English.
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10-09-09, 10:07 AM   #9
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I usually don't have a problem with "broken" English, but I've also spent a lot of time listening to it being spoken by non-native speakers (many of whom learned by ear rather than formal education).

For a number of English speakers, though, there is a growing movement to "refuse" to understand something that is not in what they consider proper English due to "lazy" English Lykofos mentions. Most of the time, I fall in that category, as it really annoys me when native English speakers can't take the time to try to communicate clearly.

At the same time, if it's clear there's an effort or I see mistakes that are more typical of a non-native speaker, I give them full leeway. I'll ignore the guy that isn't trying, but help the guy who is.

(Much will depend on my mood at the time, though. )
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10-09-09, 12:51 PM   #10
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for me, i think it comes down to what i am used to. i am "literate", i read a lot, and what i read is generally legible, well-formed (in an "academic" sense), and contains punctuation.

as a consequence of this (i suspect), the written english i have the most trouble with is originated by native english speakers who have never learned how to use punctuation. gigantic run-on sentences are mostly illegible to me. i have to follow-up, ask questions, etc. (i also have problems with spoken english, when the speaker's accent differs significantly from my own, probably due to my lack of training in other languages, but also possibly because i am going deaf from listening to too much metal, which really only sounds good if it is LOUD ).

at the same time, i have had people criticize me for not capitalizing the first letters of my sentences (and proper nouns). i plead guilty (i am just too lazy to use the shift-key, and WAY too lazy to go back through some text i have written and make sure that i did so correctly).

i suspect this is all just "human nature". we do what we are trained to do (punctuate/not, capitalize/not, interact with people who "talk funny", etc). and in practice, language is a pretty informal/mutable process to begin with.
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10-09-09, 12:57 PM   #11
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I'm a former English tutor/teacher, thus I can usually understand anything thrown my way. With the exception of combination - "Spanglish" for example with combines Spanish with English.
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10-09-09, 01:29 PM   #12
forty2j
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It's more difficult for me if a non-native speaker tries to translate a common idiom from their usual tongue in to english.. it never turns out right.

Also bear in mind that between english-speaking peoples, there is a lot of disconnect in common phrases and such. As an American, it took quite some time before I could easily parse the meaning of my colleagues from the sub-continent. Even common words like "doubt" get used in very different ways..
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10-09-09, 03:08 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by forty2j View Post
Also bear in mind that between english-speaking peoples, there is a lot of disconnect in common phrases and such. As an American, it took quite some time before I could easily parse the meaning of my colleagues from the sub-continent. Even common words like "doubt" get used in very different ways..
Lol, I know that feeling. It can be difficult to understand dialects that are spoken some parts of one's country let along other countries. I was born and raised in Montana then spent eight years in Utah. My accent is fairly generic due to the Pacific Northwest/Utah linguistic melting pot. However some of my relatives are from Appalachia (North Carolina panhandle) and I don't have much of a hope in trying to understand their dialect. Same thing with many English speakers from the Indian subcontinent. I get along better with Irish, Scottish and Australian English speakers than I do with Appalachian or Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi English. In my experience in dealing with English speakers from around the world, accent can play a big role in understanding your speaker in addition to the dialect. Understand the dialect is one thing, however if there is a pronounced (to the listener's ear) accent, then that accent just compounds the difficulty in trying parse the speaker's language.
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10-09-09, 04:46 PM   #14
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My main language is German and English is secondary. I don't want to begin pointing out the many grammar errors in these posts alone. However, the OP has me concerned. "My mother tongue is not english, and in school we spend a lot of time on learning english and the grammar." Perhaps you should rewrite this sentence as such. While attending school I spent a significant amount of time studying English and it's proper grammar, however my native language is not English.



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10-09-09, 05:16 PM   #15
Akryn
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Originally Posted by Galtar View Post
"My mother tongue is not english, and in school we spend a lot of time on learning english and the grammar." -> While attending school I spent a significant amount of time studying English and it's proper grammar, however my native language is not English.
True WRT the caps. However I disagree with most of your other changes:
1. Is there a reason to change the main verb tense? I don't think he said he was out of school.
2. It's not necessary to shift "and" to "however" -- the second independent clause is indeed not complimentary to the first; but it's idiomatic to use "and" or "but" in informal discussion. Further, if you take "My mother tongue is not english" to mean "I am a native of a country that does not speak English" then you could make a case that the relationship is complimentary. That is in fact how I took it when I read the sentence for the first time; and I was therefore confused for a while why you thought it needed to be "however."
3. The tone of your suggestion is more formal than the OP's original wording.
4. "It's" == "it is" not the possessive of "it."
5. "...has me concerned" is generally perceived as rude, FYI.

Anyway on another note: I definitely agree that foreign language study improves your conscious grasp of your own language's structure; and therefore probably helps parse "broken" versions of that language. I also had grammar beaten into me in primary/middle school, but never really understood what I was learning until I learned it in the context of a foreign language in high school.
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10-09-09, 05:38 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Lykofos View Post
From my experience, it depends on whether or not it's "broken" English (aka as spoken by a non English speaker who only has a rudimentary understanding of the language) or if it is "lazy" English (as used by many English speakers online). "L33T speak" is a form of "lazy" English. Since I an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, I can usually spot the difference. I am much more tolerate of "broken" English than I am of "lazy" English. I usually don't even bother trying to decipher "lazy" English.
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10-09-09, 06:25 PM   #17
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I'm also very tolerant of 'broken' English, but I won't even try to figure out 'lazy' English. If someone posts a message as one long run-on sentence with no punctuation and badly incorrect spelling, then I won't even try to puzzle it out. It's outright painful to try to work through. However, that's almost always lazy English rather than a non-native English speaker. In my experience (bolded because it's just my experience and not intended to mean applying to everyone), non-native English speakers are far better than a lot of modern American youth in expressing themselves in writing.

Another forum that I'm a member of has so many international members that using proper English (instead of lazy English; no one is expected to be perfect!) is actually a board rule. Using lazy English is grounds to have a post reported. I think it's great. Incidentally, it's also the only board I've seen that has a huge membership (over 24K), but stays polite and civilized. I honestly think that is at least partially related.
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10-09-09, 09:32 PM   #18
vpr
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I'm an American (born and raised in South Texas) with a neutral American accent, also an ESL "teacher" living abroad, so being able to understand broken English is vital to the job. I've been living and working in WuHan, China since 2006, and the Chinese are notorious for making what I consider simple errors, even when they've gotten to a level that I would consider conversational.

They're always adding +ing, they can't grasp past tense, they always forget the use of 'a' and 'the', and they often mix up 'he' and 'she' even in conversation.

These problems in their English stem from their own language, as Chinese at it's root is actually a pretty "simple" language complicated by it's use of tones and a non-Roman alphabet (although they have PinYing but that's not fully accepted amongst the older generations). Chinese does not have a difference in 'sex' so you always say "Wo" me 'I' or 'Me' adding -da for 'mine', "Ni" for 'you' adding -da for 'yours', and "Ta" for He/She adding -da for 'His/Hers'.

However, even though they make these 'simple' errors, they're able to ruthlessly dissect sentences into their parts of speech, something I forgot about primarily after High School.

I've thought about this very topic, and it occurs to me that English is a very 'descriptive' language and to people whose mother tongue isn't as descriptive having words that mean the same thing with varying degrees of feeling might throw them off. Also, at least in America, English is taught all through school from Elementary (Primary) level, to University. The only difference, at least in Texas, is that in the Public school level it's being taught in a way to help pass a test (TAAS which has been replaced with the TAKS evidently) because the school received funding based on the number of people who passed the exam. To complicate the problem, most Americans, or Ostridges (why is it saying this word is misspelled???), never leave the USA except to maybe Mexico or Canada where English is understood. So, they see no reason to put a lot of effort into their studies after school. Mixed with SMS/IM/IRC/Chat and you've got a deterioration of the English language. Finally, the celebrities (mainly HipHop stars I think) often use their gangsta talk and butcher words to make them sound 'street'/'urban' or fit a song which I think is a form of pollution since the youth latches on to these words and it becomes widely used. Just look at Urban Dictionary for examples.

However, as more and more Americans are starting to leave the States as either EX-Pats, or world-wide travel, I'm hoping that this will change. I work with an older woman from England who is constantly saying that the level of spoken English in England is atrocious and appalling now. I will say that my biggest problems has always been spelling. I've always struggled with spelling, even though I was one of those kids that read the dictionary in my free time. To this day, I still struggle with it.

Long post, guess I had a lot to say.

*EDIT* oops forgot:

I would also agree that accents have a big part in understanding. I've worked with people from all over the world: Canadians, Americans, Northern and Southern British, Cameroonian, Rwandan, Irish, Australian, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Saudi Arabian, Macedonia - and I have to say that sometimes I have a hard time understanding words the Irishman says, and we had a teacher with a ****ney accent from England that I had problems with. The guy from Cameroon spoke English with a French accent, and was sometimes difficult to understand. I also find that if students aren't understanding, they just shut down.

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10-10-09, 12:34 AM   #19
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I thought the edit-message was pretty self-explanatory.

"Last edited by Yourstruly : Yesterday at 01:02 PM. Reason: edits don't make good topics..."

I wasn't saying I am perfect. I have always had a bad habit of wrapping sentences inside-out and edits make it even worse when I'm not proof-reading. I'm sure it's related to my thought-process.
All those years of learning english has helped but it has been 4 years since I last had an english lesson and it's pretty easy to forget things you're not using.
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10-10-09, 01:50 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Galtar View Post
Perhaps you should rewrite this sentence as such. While attending school I spent a significant amount of time studying English and it's proper grammar, however my native language is not English.
I think the poster after you critiqued your rewrite of the OP's sentence rather nicely. However I will bring up a couple of points that I have noticed as an ESL teacher:

English does not have "Language rules" rather "guidelines" (they are called "Rules" however as you will read, they are more like "guidelines"). This is evident in the words it's and its: Normally, to show a possessive in English, you add the suffix 's to a word, however "its" is an exception to the guidelines. In the case of it's, normally be expected to be a possessive; however, "it's" is a contraction of the words it and is. So it+is=it's. Thus the possessive of it is written without the '. English is a minefield that is full of exceptions to the guidelines like "its".

The various exceptions to the guidelines makes English even more difficult to learn for non English speakers. In addition, English borrows many words from other languages. Those words often retain the rules of their parent language. This further confuses ESL students.

English itself is a hybrid language of several Germanic, Celtic and Nordic languages with a later infusion of Norman French and Latin (via French). Later during the Renaissance, additional words where imported from Latin and Greek. Finally in modern times, heavy immigration to the United States (1800s-present), the United Kingdom (1900s-present) and Australia (1800s-present) have additional words to English as a whole and to each country's branch of English. All these additions only add to the complexity of the language.

Another thing to remember about English that has been brought up in the thread a few times, is English is not a monolithic language. English is the second largest language (only Chinese is larger and Chinese is not a monolithic language either) by population and geographically is the most widespread language spoken on Earth. With the wide geographical spread of English and the isolation of many English speaking countries, a number of English branches have arisen. Thus what may be consider "proper" grammar and spelling in one branch of English may be different in another branch of English.

The major branches of English:
  • British - British Isles, taught in many European schools, has a number of regional dialects. The "Queen's English". Has influenced the English of many countries that made up the former British Empire.
  • American - Taught in American (both in the US and overseas) schools, has a number of regional dialects. Heavily influenced by languages imported by immigrants in 1800s, additional words contributed by Native American languages and later Asian languages.
  • Canadian - Canada, hybrid of British and American English
  • Australian - Australia, New Zealand is a close cousin, influenced by immigrants and Aboriginal languages.
  • Indian - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, influenced by the plethora of languages spoken on the Indian subcontinent.
  • South African - Cousin of British, influenced by Dutch (Afrikaans) and other languages
There are other, smaller English branches that I have not listed here.
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