Some thoughts on the English Language

Since I’ve been away from Canada, I’ve come to appreciate English much more than I was taught to do. I must say that –although, English has always been (well, from 4 or 5 years of age onward) my main language of communication– it was always been looked down upon by my parents (mother and step-father) and the Hispanic community in general. They would talk about it (the Anglo-Saxon base) as a language of insufficient native development (take vocabulary, for instance) –that in its need to compensate for its failings it adopted foreign words (and concepts) at an alarming rate (from Spanish, French, etc). Last I recalled, there are about 10 000 Norman (including “close to standard French”) words adopted into English.

Latter in life, upon meeting Hispanic academics I was told that English isn’t really a language because it lacks precision –that the role of a language is to describe things accurately, and anything less falls short and perhaps qualifies closer to being a collection of communally agreed upon signs or symbols, “linguistic short-cuts” of some kind. Contributing to this failing, is the use of too many expressions and groups of imprecise and sometimes even illogical words that are copied from one speaker/writer to another –without ever giving a thought to what is literally being communicated and what is being insinuated. The American “I could care less”, which is gaining widespread use, comes to mind, whereas in Canada it’s properly phrased “I couldn’t care less”.

Of course, English has had a lot of success in establishing itself as the de facto auxiliary international language –winning over French and Spanish for international business. It’s also the de facto language of science, and most scientific research. Natural science university majors in third world countries often buy English textbooks, at least they do in Chile. Maybe, there’s something to be said for the language, after all.

I’ve even given a lot of thought to creating an international auxilary language based on modern English grammar, but with common Latin vocabulary.  Hmm, food for thought. I gather it’s relatively easy, if you know what you’re doing.

Maurice Cepeda

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