Help with English

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Saint, Aug 24, 2011.

  1. River Ape Valued Senior Member

    It is not > It ain't > It ent > Tent

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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Thanks. It's used in some American dialects (these days only for humor or nostalgia) but pronounced taint. I can't find it listed anywhere so I have no idea how it would be spelled.

    I guess I'm glad you guys haven't condensed "it's not" into "snot."

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  5. Saint Valued Senior Member

    Too much for me to absorb. :bawl:
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  7. Saint Valued Senior Member

    Where can I learn useful and common Slang of American or British?
    Is it good to use slang in speech and writing?
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    "Where can I learn common, useful American or British slang?"

    The fact that, more often than not, you still cannot correctly craft a sentence in standard English (as demonstrated above!) means that you need to concentrate on mastering the standard language before you attempt to use slang. Slang is easy to misinterpret, so people will be more likely not to understand you or, even worse, to misunderstand you. Furthermore, slang is often used for the specific purpose of insulting someone or something. You could very easily insult the person to whom you're speaking--or his entire profession, ethnic group, religion, political party, hobby, etc.--without even realizing it.

    Choose Standard American, Standard British or Standard Australia/New Zealand dialect, but stick with it and don't mix them. I don't mean to ignore the Standard Indian and Standard South African dialects; I just assume that you probably don't encounter very many people who speak them so it would be difficult to learn their particular differences in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary.

    Back in my day, British English was standard in Malaysia, because of the influence of Singapore and Hong Kong, with a little slang donated by Australian tourists and businessmen. Today American corporations are opening offshore manufacturing facilities in Malaysia, so it's possible that American English is competing for dominance. You should decide whether the people you need to communicate with in the most important circumstances are British or American (or Australian), and learn their dialect.

    Don't even think about slang. The people you work with use slang and you'll pick up a few words and phrases without even trying. But don't try to deliberately learn new ones.
    It is never proper for a "guest" (i.e., a foreigner learning someone else's language) to belittle the language of the "host" by being too informal.

    If you were twelve years old and going to school with a bunch of American, British or Australian children, then you would be learning English "by immersion" and you would learn all the words they use. Children are more forgiving so if you used the wrong word they would usually laugh and not scold you or feel insulted. Furthermore, children learn languages much faster than adults, so in a couple of years you'd be speaking like a native.

    But at your age (I assume you're in your mid-twenties if not older) your language-learning ability is about 10% of what it was at age twelve. It takes you longer to learn vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar and syntax, and you make more mistakes. Even worse, the adults you're speaking to are more easily insulted and less forgiving than children. Always remember that it's much easier to insult someone by accident in slang than in standard language.

    So please don't try to learn slang. Concentrate on your vocabulary and grammar, as you have been doing since you started here.

    As for writing... no. Don't ever use slang in writing until you've mastered our language at least 99%. There are many situations in which slang is never appropriate in writing.

    I started learning Spanish when I was twelve. Fifty-six years later, I still avoid using slang.
  9. River Ape Valued Senior Member

    You have given thoroughly good advice, Fraggle.
    Problem is, there is a need to learn to understand the slang that other people use.
    Well, I think it may actually require more effort (and cause more confusion)than you suggest.
  10. Saint Valued Senior Member

    1. I defended for Mary against the accusation that she had stolen John's money.

    Is this the correct way to use the verb defend?
  11. Saint Valued Senior Member

    This is a good website of American slang,
    not my cup of tea
    Definition: Something not to your liking; something you don't like to do.
    Example: 1) Some people love football, but it's not my cup of tea. I prefer bowling.
  12. Saint Valued Senior Member

    To be extremely interested in something; to be so involved with something that you cannot move.

    1) As soon as the movie started, Holly was glued to her seat.
  13. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Remove the "for" and it's good:
    I defended Mary against the accusation that she had stolen John's money.

    If by "American slang" you mean slang that is used in America, then yes.
    But the etymology of much of it will possibly be from English... such as your example.
  14. Saint Valued Senior Member

    I found slang is a very creative kind of English.
    We can use common sense to judge its meaning.

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  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I agree. But learning to understand it is qualitatively easier than learning to use it yourself. And much safer!
    No, that's dangerous. The whole point of slang is to use words in new ways, often with a meaning opposite to their normal usage.

    It will be a good exercise to try to understand slang, and (hopefully) no one will mind if you ask them to explain a slang term--once in a while, not constantly. But learning to use it properly is difficult. Since your command of English still leaves room for a lot of errors, I strongly advise you not to try to use slang. If you make a mistake it could very easily turn into an insult.

    A Belgian friend of mine kept hearing us use the term "whiz kid" to describe a young lady who worked with us, because she was a fast learner. One day he went up to her and said, "Debbie, I'm having trouble understanding this assignment. Can you take a whiz on it?"

    Debbie never spoke to him again.
  16. RJBeery Natural Philosopher Valued Senior Member

    This isn't really true, unfortunately. I'm American and I'm STILL trying to understand Cockney Rhyming Slang. I mean, I "get it", but it's entirely nonsensical.

    A decent reference for quick American slang translations, particularly in pop-culture references, is Urban Dictionary where the populace "votes" on the proper meaning of new or ambiguous slang terms...
  17. Saint Valued Senior Member

    Some English words have two adjectives, e.g. weary and wearisome.
    How to distinguish their usage?
  18. Saint Valued Senior Member

    More examples like:
    1. boring vs boresome
    2. fearful vs fearsome
    3. aweful vs awesome
    4. worrying vs worrisome
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    This is a typical pair. The difference is passive vs. active: This job is wearisome ("tiring"). It makes me weary ("tired").
    Same here: That gigantic bear is fearsome ("scary"). He makes me fearful ("scared").
    The same: This problem is worrisome. It caused me to be worried. (Or it caused me to worry, or because of this problem I am worrying.)

    You have to be careful with the verb "to worry" because its paradigm is broken. It can be both a transitive and intransitive verb.
    This red spot on my skin worries me. (transitive)
    I worry about this red spot on my skin. (intransitive)​
    This is not the same kind of pair. "Boring" and "boresome" mean the same thing. However, "boresome" is not a modern word and you probably will never hear it or read it unless you like really old books.
    This is also not the same kind of pair. "Awful" (there's no E in it) means "really bad." "Awesome" means "really impressive." Today in America people use "awesome" as a slang word to mean just "good."
    "I made it all the way home without ever having to stop for a red light."
    "That's awesome, Honey. Did you at least remember to stop long enough to pick up the dry cleaning?"​
  20. Saint Valued Senior Member

    I have problem to fully understand the speech in Hollywood movies, how can I improve it?
    People like Sylvester Stallone, when he spoke I really can't understand what did he say.
    Does he speak good English with correct pronunciation?
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    "I have a problem fully understanding the speech..."

    This indicates to me that the dialect of English which you customarily hear in Malaysia is British, not American. This is what I expected, since the presence of American citizens and businesses in your country is very recent.
    The primary difference between British English and American English is pronunciation. Technically, this almost makes them accents rather than dialects. However, they were very different dialects until a few decades ago, and even now there are still quite a few differences in vocabulary. So, although we now understand most of each other's words (lorry/truck, spanner/wrench, earth/ground, bonnet/hood, minister/secretary, etc.) due to the sharing of TV, movies and pop music, we are unwilling to change our attitudes so we still call them dialects.

    So your effort should concentrate primarily on understanding the sounds of American English. Fortunately we speak more slowly than the Brits, so this will be much easier than if you were going the other way!

    The major difference is in the vowels. Almost the entire set of vowels is pronounced differently in England than in America, and within both countries there are regional differences, although they are much greater in England (and even greater in Scotland, also part of Great Britain). Their "cat" sounds like our "cot." Their "cot" sounds like our "caught." Their "caught" sounds like our "coat." Their "coat" sounds like our "coot." So when you hear an American say these words, they will sound like the wrong words to you.

    The British also elide unaccented vowels--meaning that they shorten them so that they become indistinct, or eliminate them completely. We do that too, but not as much as they do. Many words in American dialect have more syllables than in British dialect.

    I don't know how to help you with this, beyond explaining the major differences. I studied Brazilian Portuguese and I know the differences between the European dialect and the South American dialect, yet every time I hear someone from Lisbon speak, it's very hard to understand them.

    If you have the good fortune to be able to find both a performance of a play in American English and the script of the play, then you can listen to the words as you read them. I'm sure that would be a wonderful way to develop the skill to translate one dialect to another in your head.

    I sympathize with you. In the 1950s there were no British songs, almost no British TV shows, and very few British movies in America. When I saw a British movie it was almost like a foreign language, so difficult to understand that it lost all its entertainment or cultural value. Then in the 1960s British movies invaded America (led by James Bond with guns blazing and wisecracks dripping), followed by the songs of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the entire army of musicians whom we called "The British Invasion," and finally an avalanche of TV shows like "Upstairs Downstairs" and "Monty Python."

    By the 1970s it was easy for us to understand the Brits, and because a symmetrical invasion went across the Atlantic in the other direction, they could understand us too.

    But this took twenty years.

    The best thing you can do is find some Americans and try to make friends so you can have conversations with them. Then if you don't understand something you can just ask for help. Otherwise, keep watching movies. If you have access to U.S. television shows, that will help too. Your ears will eventually make the adjustment.
    "When he speaks I really can't understand what he says."
    "Sly" Stallone comes from an Italian-American family in New York City. There are many different accents in American English, and Italian-American is one of them. He does not speak the way the average American speaks. His cadence is different, which is what we use to figure out where one word stops and the next one begins. His vowels are also a little different from Standard American.

    When I was a kid, Italian-Americans had their own dialect of American English, with exaggerated differences in stress on the syllables and a lot of Italian words. (In fact the "Italian" community in the USA is largely Sicilian, and many linguists count Sicilian as a separate language, not a dialect of Italian.) Today their vocabulary is less Italian and more English and the accent has been flattened, but it is still noticeable.

    If you're going to watch American movies as part of your strategy to understand American English, I would not recommend Sly Stallone as one of your teachers.

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    You'd probably have more luck if you start with our older movies starring legendary (and dead) stars like Gregory Peck, John Wayne, Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn. They tended to speak Standard American in those days, not regional dialects and urban slang like actors do today.

    You might also find life in America before the "Generation Gap" of the 1960s a little easier to understand, so the movies might be more enjoyable.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2011
  22. Saint Valued Senior Member

    Fraggle, you had written so much that I am difficult to understand.
    Do you have a PhD in language?
  23. Saint Valued Senior Member

    1. He has no friend other than me (or I?).
    2. He has no friend beside me.

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