Today, while surfing the net trying to find interesting stuff about languages for our awesome Facebook community, I stumbled upon the following joke:
An American visiting in England asked at the hotel for the elevator.
The portiere looked a bit confused but smiled when he realized what the man wanted.
“You must mean the lift,” he said.
“No,” the American responded. “If I ask for the elevator I mean the elevator.”
“Well,” the portiere answered, “over here we call them lifts”.
“Now you listen”, the American said rather irritated, “someone in America invented the elevator.”
“Oh, right you are sir,” the portiere said in a polite tone, “but someone here in England invented the language.”
I found that hilarious. But then, it made me think. There is always this sort of squabble about which English is the norm – British or American. And I’m not trying to exclude other “English languages” in the world; but, I mean, in a world where 375 million people speak English as their first language, it is hard not to simplify.
I am not an English native speaker. My native language is Spanish, European Spanish – the comparison between British and American English and Castillian Spanish and Latin-American Spanish is inevitable, but that’s a topic for another post-, and during my school years, British English was the norm. What can I say, our English standards were defined by the Cambridge exams. The speaker from the tapes that we used as listening exercises had a very diplomatic, yet distinct British accent.
And yet, probably because my English comes primarily from the American media –movies, shows, online radio programs-, I unknowingly developed a tendency towards American English. I write “center” with the “er”, and when I say it, I pronounce the final “r” lifting the tip of my tongue. When I get “mad”, I’m angry, not crazy. And when I’m told I’m “smart”, I don’t think of my attire. And when I want to reach my apartment floor… I take the stairs 🙂
Do I think American English is the norm? No. Nor am I denying it. Languages have a history that no one can deny, and knowing it makes our culture and vocabulary richer. Having a clear view of these two particular “English languages” gives me an insight into the overall language that I wouldn’t enjoy if I closed my mind to the possibility that they are both just as valid and as wonderful.
Furthermore, as a translator, an open mind about the regional differences in a language –not only English, but pretty much any language- is a valuable asset. People want to be talked to in their very own language, with their very own quirks and expressions, and if you consider yourself a good translator, you have to be able to respond to this demand.
inwhatlanguage‘s professional, native-speaking language translators understand this need. They are among the most qualified in the translation services industry. Every language translation project is treated with the same degree of quality and precision, which is why our firm has one of the best reputations in the language translation industry with regards to customer satisfaction and quality translations.
It doesn’t matter who invented a language, or who changed it along the way… We are up to whatever challenge comes our way.