Tuesday April 23, 2019
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English Words: How Words from Different Languages Find Their Way into English Dictionaries

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English Words: How Words from Different Languages Find Their Way into English Dictionaries, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Every year there are new English words that get incorporated in English language from other languages. When something fantastic catches your attention, what would you exclaim—jhakaas, bombat or semma? Is a cunning guy chaalu, chatri or shaana? Would you call your friend yaar, macha or bondhu?

The world of words is the most extraordinary of things as it gives expression to everything under the sun. Every single word that we use daily stands, often without our realisation, for something unique, something that the given word is used to give expression to.

But while most words are common in speech, there are several that have rarely been written down.

For 54-year-old lexicographer Peter Gilliver, words like “spuggy” and “netty” were perfectly ordinary as he had been familiar with them since his childhood, but he was surprised that neither of them had made their way into the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

“I can recall some words which my grandmother used, like ‘spuggy’ meaning a sparrow, or ‘netty’ meaning a toilet, which were very familiar to me, but which are little used outside the northeast of England, where grandma lived,” Gilliver, the OED Associate Editor, told IANS in an email interview.

He said he brought these words with him as “just about everyone, who comes to work for the OED, brings some regional dialect words, which they learned when they were young, and which are not familiar to people from other regions”.

There are now entries in the dictionary for both words, which exhibits that their history can be traced back over 100 years, actually 200 years in the case of “netty”.

“I think there must be similar words in every region of the English-speaking world, which are very familiar to people living there but little known outside the region; we are glad to learn about such words, so that we can research them and consider adding them to the OED,” Gilliver said.

Closer home in India, almost everyone can certainly recall a moment when a word in their native language—the language they’ve known and used for years at home—baffles people from other parts of our own country.

Again, most such words are common in speech but some are rarely written down and so they can easily escape the attention of dictionary editors.

There are also many English words, commonly used in India, that haven’t found space in English dictionaries.

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English Words: How Words from Different Languages Find Their Way into English Dictionaries, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Angus Stevenson, OED’s Head of Content Development, said that their dictionaries of current English, in particular the online text, contains many hundreds of examples of Indian English as well, and many that derive from Hindi and other Indian languages.

“We are particularly interested in words such as ‘air-dash’, ‘batchmate’, and ‘calling bell’, which are genuine examples of an Indian variety of English, and would very much like to expand our coverage,” Stevenson said.

Yo may also like to read: If you look carefully at English you will see Sanskrit hidden everywhere: Jeffrey Armstrong

“We are planning projects to gather and define words from Indian and other under-represented areas of English—for example, we cover South African English but have not yet attempted to describe the English used in other parts of the African continent,” he added.

The first English dictionary goes back to at least the 16th century and the era of the Renaissance, which was a time, somewhat like our own, in which there was a huge amount of rapid change, and many new influences on the English language.

“The first Oxford dictionary of English was the OED, first published between 1884 and 1928.”

The OED claims to draw on expertise from all around the world. Their lexicographers are not confined to the UK, according to Judy Pearsall, Dictionaries Director at OED.

“The OED focuses on usage wherever in the world English is spoken and used. We have a large team of editors in the UK, but we also have consultants and colleagues from a much wider field and we rely on the whole team to ensure that our outlook is global and outward-facing, just like the English language itself,” she said.

With the rise of social media networking, usage of acronyms and abbreviations are also on the rise. What is still the need to have dictionary words?

“For us at Oxford Dictionaries, words are ‘dictionary words’, as long as they are used, and that includes abbreviations and acronyms,” said Pearsall.

Also readThe Indian influence on English Language

“The OED looks to include terms that originated on social media, such as LOL, just as much as any other words.

“We regard all of them as part of the language, and recognize that people use and need both,” she maintained. (IANS)

 

 

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Volunteers in Colorado to Teach English to Immigrant Students

At the Intercambio Community Center in Longmont, Colorado, volunteer Deepa McCauley is teaching a dozen immigrants to talk about health in English

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The volunteer teachers and their students both say the meaningful conversations they have at their Intercambio classes build lasting community connections. Pixabay

It’s been said that to have another language is to possess a second soul. For immigrants to the U.S., that soul can be hard to get, because it’s often confusing and difficult to find English classes, and private lessons can be expensive.

In Colorado, an award-winning group called Intercambio trains volunteers to teach English as a second language to immigrant students from around the world. The lessons take place in classroom settings or in the immigrant’s home. In the process, volunteers and their “students” often become lasting friends, building meaningful connections and a deeper soul for the entire community.

At the Intercambio Community Center in Longmont, Colorado, volunteer Deepa McCauley is teaching a dozen immigrants to talk about health … in English.

“Running a fever doesn’t mean that you’re running,” she said. “Running a fever is the temperature. Yes, exactly. The thermometer moves.” The men and women in her class come from around the world.

McCauley teaches them English without speaking their native languages. She says it’s possible because the training materials are filled with helpful illustrations and because of the training she received from Intercambio. “I don’t have a teaching background, but Intercambio has great training classes,” she said.

Its own training materials

Intercambio’s Executive Director Lee Shainis says the group developed its training materials with the volunteers in mind.

“We found that a lot of the materials out there were not directly geared toward volunteer teachers, and we’ve had 5,000 volunteer teachers since we started, 18 years ago,” he said. “And volunteers are capable of doing an amazing job, but they also need something ready to go and also really practical and relevant.”

Back in the classroom, McCauley listens closely when her students speak up, looking for ways to make their conversations more meaningful and relevant. That includes a lesson in their textbooks about mental health.

McCauley reads from the textbook: “How’s he feeling?” she asks. “Depressed,” the class responds. But then a student from Peru takes a step away from the textbook lesson. She ventures to say that depression can come from discrimination.

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At the Intercambio Community Center in Longmont, Colorado, volunteer Deepa McCauley is teaching a dozen immigrants to talk about health in English. Pixabay

Rather than going back to the textbook right away, McCauley uses this moment to build a more meaningful connection for everyone. Students stop writing and look up and watch as McCauley responds:

“Yep. Depression can come from discrimination. My father, in India, he was an engineer. He came to America, he was collecting carts. In the grocery store. He was depressed.” “Changing life,” a woman from Peru says. “Big change in life,” McCauley responds.

Meaningful lessons, lasting difference

Intercambio’s Shainis says that making language lessons meaningful makes a lasting difference, thanks to volunteer teachers such as McCauley.

“Deepa is awesome. She was one of our many teachers who had zero experience as a volunteer teacher teaching English when she first came in, and we’ve seen huge advancements in her quality of teaching, in her quality of getting her students engaged.” The opportunity to help immigrants learn English in this way has a personal meaning for McCauley.

“One of the main reasons I wanted to teach English is because my parents were first generation immigrants who didn’t speak English, and they had a really hard time,” she said. “And they wouldn’t have had a hard time if they had a place like Intercambio.”

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Intercambio’s Shainis says that making language lessons meaningful makes a lasting difference, thanks to volunteer teachers such as McCauley. Pixabay

Back at the Intercambio classroom, there are many successes to celebrate, such as the advances of a student named Silvia, who came to the United States from Mexico.

ALSO READ: ‘Credible Threat’ Leads To Closing of Denver-Area Schools

“When I left my country, I didn’t speak at all English. At all,” Sylvia said. “Sylvia was one of my very first students,” McCauley said. “She’s been here for how many years now? Two years. Now she has a job. She’s working. So she’s doing really well.”

The volunteer teachers and their students both say the meaningful conversations they have at their Intercambio classes build lasting community connections. (VOA)