March 23, 2008 |
In Nigeria, people felicitate the successful, police open cans of worms on cutlass-brandishing miscreants, and the criminal rascals meet their Waterloo. Touts, urchins and heaps of calumny: Nigerian English melds Victorian-era vocabulary inherited from long-gone British colonialists with the grammatical structures and syntax that underpin indigenous languages in Africa's most populous nation. The results can be ornate, oddly understated or remarkably apt. But in a rapidly globalizing world, some worry that Nigerians will be handicapped by an English that differs from the language of board rooms and Internet bulletin boards.
January 17, 2007 |
Few cities have been as successful as this one in parlaying a knowledge of English into an economic boom. Every day, an army of call-center workers chirps, "Can I help you?" in lilting Indian tones to thousands of customer-service callers half a world away. In other gleaming high-rises, legions of software engineers toil at their computers designing programs for clients in the United States, Britain and Canada.
September 22, 2006 |
Performing Jean Racine's "Phaedra" in English is like trying to make champagne in New Jersey. It's not a matter of Gallic snobbery. The conditions are all wrong. The play poses formidable translation challenges. The formal elegance of Racine's rhymed verse is more than decoration; it's a worldview. Phaedra is a character who's torn between her passion for her stepson Hippolytus and her proud nobility. The conflict unfolds in the tragedy's verbal patterns.
July 26, 2006
Re "To Know You Is to Love You," Column One, July 24 I find especially amusing K. Connie Kang's fascination with the English pronoun "you." For all of its alleged simplicity in comparison to the same grammatical concept in Korean, English speakers have been striving to create regional substitutes such as "youse," "y'all," "ye" and "yiz" to replace the second person plural now sadly lost but sorely needed for centuries. That absence is an Achilles' heel to our native tongue.
October 16, 2005 |
IT was about the time my Italian teacher was explaining exceptions to the exceptions to the rule on article and adjective modifiers for possessive nouns that I uttered the only Italian phrase that came easily after studying the language for a week. "Come mai?" Roughly translated, that means, "But why?" I said it with a long, despairing, quasi-operatic moan that made my teacher stop, surprised.
November 9, 2003 |
The kindergarten teacher speaks to her class in Cherokee, telling the children to pull out their mats for nap time. Using their Cherokee names, she instructs "Yo-na," or Bear, to place his mat away from "A-wi," or Deer. Soft Cherokee music lulls them to sleep. These youngsters' parents were mocked for speaking Cherokee. Their grandparents were punished. But Cherokee is the only language these children will speak in their classroom.