If that is supposed to be a statement of fact, it's wrong, for 2 reasons:
a) A few observations do not equal causality. Unless each and every startup (founder?) was examined and found to match this statement, the statement is wrong. Try a weaker statement ("...you likely perform poorly as a startup...")
b) I know several successful founders with strong accents in English. There's a small, but not insignificant factor you've left out: the US market isn't everything (and it's becoming less important every day). A startup neither has to be successful in the US to be successful, nor does it even have to have English speaking customers or users. Nit-picking? Sure. But I wasn't the one who made overly broad statements that possibly offended startup founders all over the world.
you are right. It's not a statement of fact. Let me rephrase by saying that "if you have a strong accent, you are more likely to perform poorly as the CEO of a startup that does business in the US".
That has nothing to do with English, though. Any language student who's ever sat around with a group of native speakers babbling away knows how impossible it is to get them to slow down for you. And even when you're speaking one-on-one with someone, you might be able to get them to slow down for 5 seconds if you're lucky before they forget and just start speaking normally (i.e. completely unintelligibly to you) again. It's obviously not arrogance. People just aren't aware of how they speak their native language.
good points. I agree that when there are MULTIPLE English speakers in the group, it's almost impossible to slow them down. I also agree that it's unlikely to be arrogance in that case.
Perhaps I was mostly referring to one-to-one communications.
I think there's something specific to English though, especially the pronunciation part.
As an example, I have heard multiple times from Japanese and Russians that learning how to pronounce Italian is quite simple for them; I also was often in situations where Italians were thought to be Russians because of the way they would pronounce English.
This means that some languages are easier than others, and I still think that English is not that great from this point of view.
English has about 25 distinct vowels; it varies depending on your accent. Consonants can be placed around vowels freely without strict rules.
There are about 250 distinct syllables in use in Japanese and two or three times that many in Spanish or Italian. English has many thousands.
So English is harder, but people learn to speak it. Even babies.
So, I was right in thinking that pronouncing English is harder than, say, Italian or Japanese.
Unfortunately, written Japanese is super hard IMHO, or most non-western alphabets.
You may be right that English is harder to pronounce. Being an insensitive English speaker I defer to your expertise!
However, I soon discovered that there is a big difference in speaking another language and expressing yourself in it. It's very different to ask for directions than to communicate that funny thing that happened to you the other day.
I can understand what Paul is referring to in that; to be a start up CEO you need to be able to "communicate" an idea and vision. If you need to do that, in this case, to a native English speaking crowd and no one can understand you it's simply not going to work.
However, we are referring to a business/technical discussion in this case. There are similarities to other types of discussions, but I think there are also specific rules that don't apply to, say, conversations between a Dutch and an Australian couple :)
English, instead, is a full-blown language.
Since modern English was the result of combining Old English and French, you don't consider Germanic and Latin languages to be far enough apart to be pidgin?
Things that got simplified:
1. Gender of nouns (they are largely gone)
3. Verb conjugation.
Over the last 1000 years or so, few can argue that English has more or less normalized these earlier influences into a "full-blown language" as the author states. It's extremely rich and has ways to express whatever was formally contained in its Germanic grammatical roots.
What's GREAT about English from a learning perspective is that we DID hang on to a few pidgin aspects. Loss of tense and case inflections make English easier. Mastering its nuanced use is difficult, sure... but outside the US and the UK, you people don't really hold you to knowing which words collocate perfectly with others.
In the next few decades, billions more functional English users will be minted on this planet. Native speakers can look forward to either cringing or embracing innovations that arise from that. It's an interesting time.
I am not a linguist, but in my humble opinion, pidgin doesn't measure how far two languages are; it rather is the semplification of a language (e.g. Latin, or Italian) in order to make it easier to understand and speak by non natives.
Please tell me what your point was, as I don't know what to answer :)
> it rather is the semplification of a language (e.g. Latin, or Italian) in order to make it easier to understand and speak by non natives.
This is exactly what happened to English; English used to have a great deal more complexity, until the French conquered England. That started a great simplification, so that the court (which was French) and the people (which spoke a very Germanic English) could communicate.
Even things like whether a table is male or female (exists in Italian, no?) were removed from English.
Also, the reduction of the morphological complexity in English PRE-DATES the Norman invasion. So, it had nothing to do with the French rulers. Not to say that they didn't leave a mark on the language in other ways.
Which languages are you talking about?
Thanks for sharing it.
But there's also benefits of being non-native which I think you overlook:
- I can be 10x more blunt in Chinese than I can in English. The language itself is blunt, but I also get much more leeway because I'm not expected to have perfect language.
- I can concentrate on what people are actually asking me to do, rather than getting distracted by the subtleties of language or tone of voice. I get less annoyed with people's personality, and more engaged with what they want.
- Other people don't get distracted by your accent, and give you more credit than you're due. Think of a Russian speaking English - I might have negative cultural perceptions (eg. because of movie bad guys) but I also think of Dostoyevsky. You might be from the worst council estate in Russia, but I'll think you're a philosopher because of the accent.
That's why I was told to keep my German accent when I was in Britain. Foreign accents keep you out of the British class system.
I actually had some of these experiences when I was based in Asia. I agree, and I understand.
This idea, that learning English alone is simpler than the multiple languages that some countries learn in school, hints at the core of the language learning problem. A skilled employee in the US learns not 1, but 3 languages:
- Conversational English, slang, unwritten idioms.
- Then, he re-learns the extensive grammar rules and vocabulary, well beyond what's normally used in conversation (i.e to a grammar nazi level.)
- Then, again he completely relearns English in the context of the connotations and phrases of professional business language. (Many non-native English speakers are in complete disbelief that this variation even exists.)
All of this occurs over decades of schooling and on-the-job learning.
A full language, like English, has much more complex phrasing.
Hawaaiian Creole English (the academic name for the language) is still generally referred to by its speakers as "Pidgin", even though the progression from pidgin to creole was documented almost as soon as the first plantation immigrants had kids old enough to talk. (Many African creoles are similarly still called "Pidgin" by their speakers, even though the language is not a pidgin per se.) The parents of those children spoke a pidgin; the words were mostly English (with the odd word drawn from Japanese or one of the Philippine languages by concensus), but the grammar was extremely simplified and the structure (head-first, head-final, etc.) tended to reflect the speaker's native tongue.
You can trade and get work done in a pidgin, but you can't communicate with much subtlety, and the kids needed something they could chat in. The kids (all young children are linguistic geniuses compared to us older folk) quickly developed grammar that was consistent and had rules. You could speak the language well, or speak it badly.
It's difficult to make a grammatical error in a pidgin; errors are mostly about vocabulary. A creole, on the other hand, is a real language. You can get all of the words right, but still make mistakes -- mistakes of the sort that the yellow big ball would be in English. Dey bin stay buy in Hawaaiian Creole is "they were buying" ("bin" puts it into the past tense and "stay" makes it continuous/progressive); dey stay bin buy is gibberish (it would mean something like "they are still finished buying").
By the way, this is probably why some people found his post xenophobic: they thought he was expressing a judgement on people with accents; he just wanted to say something to help startup CEOs with strong accents.
Not disagreeing, but incompleteness comes from the overgrowth sometimes. Interestingly, we now have to use all sorts of circumlocutions every time we need the now-lost thou/ye distinction, and routinely miss its significance when reading Early Modern English texts like Shakespeare or the King James Bible. So even people who are aware of the old distinctions need to use the modern circumlocutions to communicate clearly. Similarly, native speakers will need to conform to World English norms.
I work at Sococo so suggest our product, which is 16-bit 16KHz and sounds wonderful. Or use something else, but for heavens sake stop using the phone.
Would it be practical to use them?
Voice, share screens, chat group and p2p.
Office metaphor - extremely high level of presence info (who's talking/sharing with whom in your work group)