Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Englishes / 영어들

Spot the difference. 이것들 사이의 차이를 알아봐라.

Textbook English [교과서 영어], also too many teachers
Slowly, and with each word carefully enunciated
"The price of five dollars was acceptable, and I decided to purchase it."

Spoken English [구어 영어], also most movies and TV shows
at a natural speed
"It was, like, five bucks, so I was like 'okay'."

It's amazing how few people realise the difference between written language and spoken language. (소수의 사람이 문어랑 구어 사이에는 차이가 있는지 정말 놀라울 정도다.) It's surprisingly similar in every language I've come across. Language learners in a classroom environment and doing little outside class are most likely to be ignorant of this fact and also have little opportunity to notice. Is it any wonder so many of the language learners have difficulty speaking naturally and often use stilted, overly-formal vocabulary?

Many's the time I've overheard language learning cassettes and been dismayed at how forced and scripted the speaking sounds. (여러 번 언어학습 카세트를 귓결에 듣고 부자연스럽고 대본을 읽는 듯한 말소리로 실망시키곤 한다.) If students take the English they hear on these cassettes as examples of authentic English, won't they be completely lost in a situation where real interaction is taking place between fluent speakers?

I came across this article arguing that textbooks could benefit greatly from using corpora in their choices of words and phrasing; and that until this happens, language learners could benefit from the opportunity to notice the difference between textbook English and real English by comparing two texts of similar content of the two styles. For a wonderful example, of the two texts below, which is the authentic one? (다음 둘 대화 중의 어느 거 진짜인가?)

Text 1:
[At a local café]
Tom: Hey, Helen! Karini!
Helen: Oh, hello Tom.
Tom: I can't understand this menu. What's an aubergine?
Helen: Er, it's a kind of vegetable. It's long and round, and purple. In America you call it an eggplant.
Tom: Eggplant? Oh no, I don't like eggplant. What's a ploughman's lunch?
Karini: It's got a slice of bread, a piece of cheese, and some lettuce…It's sort of salad.
Tom: Salad ? That's rabbit food! Isn't there any real food? What's a black pudding - an ice cream?
Helen: No, it's a kind of sausage, Tom. It's made of blood…
Tom: Oh, that's gross!
Helen: Come on, I'll show you the local café.

Text 2
1 Does anyone want a chocolate bar or anything ?
2 Oh yeah yes please
3 Yes please
4 [laughs]
5 [laughs]
6 You can have either a Mars Bar, Kit-Kat or erm cherry Bakewell
7 Oh erm it's a toss-up between [laughs] the cherry Bakewell and the Mars Bar isn't it ?
8 Well shall I bring some in then cos you might want another one cos I don't want them all, I'm gonna be
9 Miss paranoid about weight aren't you ?
10 Yes but you know
11 You're not fat Mand
12 I will be if I'm not careful
13 Oh God
14 I ate almost a whole jar of raisins this weekend [laugh] my mum gave me all these
15 Look at her, look
16 She goes oh [inaudible]
17 What was that about, you said about you and your Mum don't get on [laugh] I'd say you got on all right with that big wodge of food there
18 We can relate to chocolate…I think they're the little ones actually so you can have one of them and one of them if you like
19 Oh those cherry Bakewells look lovely
20 They do don't they ?
21 Oh they were…gorgeous…did you say you'd like a cup of tea ?
22 Yes
23 All right then
24 Sound like a right mother don't I ?
25 You do
26 But they would go smashing with a cup of tea wouldn't they ?
27 They would yeah
28 Cup of tea and a fag
29 Cup of tea and a fag Misses, we're gonna have to move the table I think

Some familiar features of real spoken English (진짜 구어 영어의 여러 특징):
ellipsis (생략),
back-channelling (되돌아옴),
hesitations (주저),
ungrammatical forms (비문법적인 말),
informal colloquialisms (회화의 구어적 표현),
incomplete utterances due to interruptions and overlaps in turn-taking (불완전한 말),
rapid topic shifts and recycling as new topics are constantly introduced and recycled (빠른 화제를 바꾸고 다시 쓰임)

These lend fluidity to the conversation which makes it natural compared to Text 1 where there are no topic shifts thus forcing the conversation to sound very unnatural and rigid.

Fluency and being able to negociate meaning are of course important in language learning, but isn't it also vital to know if a particular meaning of a word is appropriate in a given context?
(see article for a corpora activity)

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