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Page history last edited by Jens Wilkinson 13 years, 3 months ago

Well, not really. From the perspective of a native speaker of English, it might seem convenient to simply have everybody learn English, since it is, in some sense, an "international language."


But just imagine if "the shoe were on the other foot," so to speak, and we were all being asked to learn Chinese. What would be wrong with that?


On a purely practical level, there are a bunch of things that would be wrong with it, and these apply to English as well as to Chinese. For one thing, it's not easy for non-native speakers to imitate the complex sound patterns in English. The difference between cat, cut, caught, and cot is not as easy at it sounds to us. And sounds like the beginning of this and thumb are notoriously difficult. Not to mention nightmares like sixths.


Next, English (like all natural languages!) is notoriously irregular and idiomatic. We have expressions like "put on," which can mean a variety of things depending on the context. Are you putting me on? No, I'm putting on my coat.


To understand where I'm coming from, look at how non-native speakers of English have changed the language. There are places in the world where people have created new languages based loosely on English. For example, here is a sentence from Tok Pisin, an English-based Creole spoken in Papua New Guinea (taken from the introduction of the Tok Pisin Wikipedia).


Mipela i traim i mekim wanpela wikipedia long Tok Pisin tasol mipela i nidim manmeri mo husat astok bilong em i Tok Pisin.


Can you understand it? Probably not, though with a little practice it isn't that difficult. But my belief is, if we want to make a language that everybody can speak, we need to look at languages like Tok Pisin, because that's what's easier for people who were not brought up as native speakers of "standard English."


Neo Patwa is a language like that. It has been developed by people communicating across languages.


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