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Re: in which countries English is almost efficiently used among folk ?

Posted: Fri Apr 07, 2023 7:35 pm
by Lisa
20-some years ago, I could work professionally (tech) using English in Malaysia (PJ), but I did encounter a good number of (mostly malay) taxi drivers and food vendors with no english to speak of... PJ was a tech place and had a fairly high percentage of educated people/professionals, but no tourists. At that time, you could get schooling in either English, Chinese or Malay. English-medium people spoke perfectly (most of the indian/tamil ancestry people I encountered). I believe everyone had to learn English and Malay, although the Chinese medium schools didn't create great speakers of english (given my small sample set).

There was nothing I needed to learn to understand anyone who spoke english - there were some different sentence structures and cadence, but the meaning was always obvious, and everyone understood me.

Re: in which countries English is almost efficiently used among folk ?

Posted: Sat Apr 08, 2023 2:27 pm
by Saim
Ichiro wrote:
Saim wrote:Of course, a lot of this "English" is actually Singlish, which is an English-lexified Creole language. But it exists on a continuum with English: English essentially functions as the educated/formal register of Singlish. This makes Singapore more like Jamaica or Trinidad than India.


I live in Singapore. All the Singlish I hear is clearly heavily-accented English. There's some grammatical simplification, but I wouldn't say it's enough to call it a Creole.


If all you're hearing is accented English you may be hearing mesolectal or acrolectal varieties of the language. Substantial syntactic and pragmatic differences between basilectal Singlish and English are well-documented.

Re: in which countries English is almost efficiently used among folk ?

Posted: Mon Apr 10, 2023 2:45 am
by newyorkeric
Lisa wrote:There was nothing I needed to learn to understand anyone who spoke english - there were some different sentence structures and cadence, but the meaning was always obvious, and everyone understood me.


You likely got the foreigner friendly English. Educated Singaporeans are capable of talking in a very understandable way to non-Singaporeans.

At this point I feel pretty comfortable with the English variant as it's typically used among locals, but it's taken a while. I remember in my first visits, I would sometimes eavesdrop on people chatting, and I didn't even recognize it for English initially because of the accent. Then, of course, there are a whole slew of non-English words commonly used (a lot of Hokkien and Malay), and a different cadence that was tricky. Not to mention that there are many British words/phrases that I had never heard before. It's also really common for people to switch between English and Mandarin without realizing they're doing it.

This happens less now because I've learned to change the way I talk depending on whom I'm talking to and the situation, but I would sometimes say something that I thought was very clear and direct, and I would get a blank stare in response. They just couldn't understand me.

Re: in which countries English is almost efficiently used among folk ?

Posted: Wed Apr 12, 2023 8:37 pm
by Lisa
newyorkeric wrote:
Lisa wrote:There was nothing I needed to learn to understand anyone who spoke english - there were some different sentence structures and cadence, but the meaning was always obvious, and everyone understood me.


You likely got the foreigner friendly English. Educated Singaporeans are capable of talking in a very understandable way to non-Singaporeans.

At this point I feel pretty comfortable with the English variant as it's typically used among locals, but it's taken a while. I remember in my first visits, I would sometimes eavesdrop on people chatting, and I didn't even recognize it for English initially because of the accent. Then, of course, there are a whole slew of non-English words commonly used (a lot of Hokkien and Malay), and a different cadence that was tricky. Not to mention that there are many British words/phrases that I had never heard before. It's also really common for people to switch between English and Mandarin without realizing they're doing it.

This happens less now because I've learned to change the way I talk depending on whom I'm talking to and the situation, but I would sometimes say something that I thought was very clear and direct, and I would get a blank stare in response. They just couldn't understand me.


Malaysia may be different than Singapore (I was only for a couple of weeks total in Singapore), Malaysia is less overwhelmingly Chinese... and possibly things have changed, it's been more than 20 years now.

Before I moved there, I did spend a great deal of time, over some years, with Malaysians (then students) in the US (english-educated indian and chinese, and chinese-educated chinese), so I would have got somewhat used to vocabulary and accents... and I'd had a few years before that, spending time with native-vietnamese speakers, which might have developed skills that applied. That never occurred to me before, and I don't actually know if chinese and vietnamese apply similar transformations to english sounds.

Re: in which countries English is almost efficiently used among folk ?

Posted: Sun Apr 16, 2023 4:59 am
by sfuqua
Incomprehensible accents come from the ear of the listener as much as they come from the speech of the speaker.

Amusingly enough, considering how connected to the Philippines I am now, back in 1982 or 1983, I was listening to then President Marcos making a speech. I could barely understand him. I was sitting next to a Filipino friend, another linguistics student. I commented that Marcos's English could use some work. He was shocked. He informed me that Marcos's English was excellent, but that my ears could use some work.
I stopped and concentrated, and in a few minutes, Marcos's English became much clearer.

I think my ears changed in the few minutes, not Marcos's English.

One's background and experience have a lot to do with the comprehensibility of the English one hears.

(Another cliché,)

Years ago, I was sitting in a bar in Manila next to an English friend from Brighton, England. A guy from Scotland came in and sat down next to us and started talking. I had trouble understanding him, but my friend starting laughing and answering him, I was completely left out of the conversation. I figured they could communicate because of the skill people develop in the UK with UK accents. The Scotsman drank three beers while we finished one, bought us a round, and then got up, slapped my English friend on the back laughing and headed on down the street, as happy as could be.

When he was clear, I asked my friend what they had been talking about.

My English friend said, "I couldn't understand a word he said. He was from Scotland."

Re: in which countries English is almost efficiently used among folk ?

Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2023 1:15 am
by Le Baron
sfuqua wrote:My English friend said, "I couldn't understand a word he said. He was from Scotland."

That's a funny story. Maybe not so much now (though you do still get it), but I never understood it when this happened. The idea that certain regional accents were/are especially 'incomprehensible' always struck me as overly-theatrical and what people do to fall into line with a culture trope.

That said....I once gave blood, maybe somewhere near Bristol, and when they brought me a cup of tea and a biscuit (they used to do that) the nurse said: 'what part of Scotland are you from?' And I said 'one of those bits not in Scotland.' You see to some people if you're from the north you must be Scottish, especially if they think they can't understand you.

You also used to hear people say, I can't understand him, he 'talks Scottish'. As if it wasn't actually English. As a joke people used to sometimes say 'what? was he speaking Gaelic?'

So I invoke your earlier observation:
sfuqua wrote:One's background and experience have a lot to do with the comprehensibility of the English one hears.

and that it also comes with a sort of tin-eared obstinacy.

Re: in which countries English is almost efficiently used among folk ?

Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2023 2:49 am
by emk
Le Baron wrote:
sfuqua wrote:My English friend said, "I couldn't understand a word he said. He was from Scotland."

That's a funny story. Maybe not so much now (though you do still get it), but I never understood it when this happened. The idea that certain regional accents were/are especially 'incomprehensible' always struck me as overly-theatrical and what people do to fall into line with a culture trope.

Weren't there essentially three languages spoken in Scotland?

Scots (endonym: Scots; Scottish Gaelic: Albais, Beurla Ghallta) is an Anglic language variety in the West Germanic language family, spoken in Scotland and parts of Ulster in the north of Ireland (where the local dialect is known as Ulster Scots).[4] Most commonly spoken in the Scottish Lowlands, Northern Isles and northern Ulster, it is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Goidelic Celtic language that was historically restricted to most of the Scottish Highlands, the Hebrides and Galloway after the sixteenth century,[5] or Broad Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Standard English. Modern Scots is a sister language of Modern English, as the two diverged independently from the same source: Early Middle English (1150–1300).

That gives us Scottish Gaelic, Scots, and Scottish Standard English. It's unclear how many people actually still speak Scots, despite the best efforts of the census.

A famous example of Scots appears in the Robert Burns quote, "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley."

"Gang aft agley" is not any sort of standard English, even if the first part of the sentence certainly qualifies.

Although I once did see an "English to Scots" dictionary that only translated into Scots. I rather got the impression that this was for the use of aspiring Scots poets who wanted to include more actual Scots vocabulary. But it was useless to me, because I wanted to look up Scots words I didn't understand!

Re: in which countries English is almost efficiently used among folk ?

Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2023 3:41 pm
by Le Baron
emk wrote:Weren't there essentially three languages spoken in Scotland?

Yes, though despite me being from the region underneath the Scotland/England border (and I also lived near the border) I never heard a person speaking Gaelic until I went up to Ullapool and I don't know if he was even from there. Pure chance maybe, but I was in Scotland quite a lot as a child. My girlfriend was Scottish, from Fife (Fiona from Fife :lol: ).

Those people who claimed they couldn't understand Scottish people were surely southerners and the Scottish people speaking just accented English. It was always the same with anywhere beyond Coventry. I heard it on the train once from Milton Keynes. Some toff asked a bloke what the next station was and he replied: 'I've no idea, I'm going to Dudley..' (you have to hear the accent for that) and the toff kept saying, What? What? And he murmured his wife, 'I can't understand a word'. And yet I would go down to places like Shepton Mallet or whatever, on holiday, and hear an old fellow talking in a shop and still get practically all his speech!

Re: in which countries English is almost efficiently used among folk ?

Posted: Tue May 14, 2024 4:40 am
by shesalearner
Most of the ASEAN countries can speak English like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines.