Minding Linguistic Manners with Mr. Mike

I am soon to wrap up a year of working with future interpreters. My students, all L1 users of Korean, are finishing their 2nd year of a 2 year program. This week I scanned my weekly notes to find words which appeared a few times. All of the words or expressions (hereafter: word or words) below in bold were “flagged” by me at least once during the year while listening to my students simultaneously interpret formal Korean speeches into English. This means that I chose to explain, highlight, or discuss something about this word. It might mean I mentioned how I think the word is best used or how I felt when hearing it and my advice for future use (or non-use).  Any guesses on my comments or thoughts on these words? I have included a sample sentence in case it might be helpful. My thoughts and brief explanations are after the pic and the jump.

  1. businessman/businessmen
    “Thank you to all the businessmen who came to the conference today.”
  2. new world order
    “We are hoping to create a new world order based on trust and consensus.”
  3. comfort women
    “Japan needs to apologize sincerely for the comfort women issue.”
  4. so-called
    “The so-called creative economy will help create ‘The 2nd Miracle on the Han.'”
  5. regime
    “The Obama regime often praises the Korean education system.”
  6. Native American
    “Mike is a Native American but he somehow knows a lot about Korean politics.”
  7. works (n)
    “We have been successful thus far but there are still many works to do.”
  8. foreigner
    “We hope to have 10 million foreigners visit Korea next year.”
  9. 3rd world
    “Korea would like to share its experiences and know-how with the 3rd world.”
  10. gonna
    “In this speech I am gonna detail our efforts to expand the social safety net.”
  11. eradicate
    “We will eradicate pirates.”
  12. show off
    “Samsung is showing off its new phones.”
  13. welfare
    “We need to increase welfare for the economically marginalized.”
  14. the locals [people]
    “I had a nice chance to talk to the locals in Liberia and they are very kind.”
  15. reeducation
    “We need to provide reeducation for people who lose their jobs.”
  16. industrial complex
    “We will create new industrial complexes across the country.”
  17. a great leap forward
    “If we work hard we can make a great leap forward.”
  18. co-prosperity scheme
    “We have created a co-prosperity scheme that will be mutually beneficial”
  19. scheme
    “The Korean government will create a scheme to promote low-carbon green growth.”
  20. wanna
    We wanna have a better relationship with North Korea but first they have to dismantle their nuclear weapons program.”
The_New_World_Order.5

New World Order

 

 

 

One thing that caught my attention as I cataloged my thoughts on these words is that said thoughts very much come from me, a person who comes from a place and time. My background, education, biases, and politics (and more) seem to have impacted what words I chose to highlight as well as my thoughts and feelings on them. I told students they can feel free to agree with my thoughts and recommendations or not because some of these are quite subjective. I told them it was just information and it is up to them what they do with the information. I would very much welcome impressions and disagreements on these words or anything else.

pc-1958-024

Mr. Mao’s Great Leap Forward

 

  1. businessman/businessmen
    Sexist. Why not business person or business leader(s) or something else? Of course if they specifically mean a man then it is fine but I’d still urge caution with this.
  2. New World Order
    Scary! I’d be fine with “new order” or even “new order in the world” but “New World Order” sounds terrifying to me.
  3. comfort women
    My  point here is (from my and the Korean government’s opinion) the term “comfort women” is too soft, too euphemistic. It seems like a certain newspaper doesn’t agree with me although Hillary Clinton does.  For me “comfort women” is not the word we should typically use when translating from Korean, especially in official government speeches. Sex slaves is the word.
  4. so-called
    When I hear “so-called” I expect there is some sarcasm involved. I think what my students wanted to say in many cases was something like “what I am calling _____” or “what is sometimes known as _____” or “_____ as a newly coined phrase.” I remember being very confused at first when the interpretations of government speeches used so-called when politicians were referring to their own pet projects. This one always catches my attention. I must admit I was quite proud when a student said “so-called comfort women” in an interpretation and I asked her about it. She said it was “so-called” because the term was incorrect and that sex slaves was the correct term.
  5. regime
    Not a good word to use when talking about allies or those elected in a way we are deeming to be correct. Good word for North Korea, though.  (This is of course different than when we talk about the nuclear non-proliferation regime or something like this.)
  6. Native American
    I think the confusion here was with “native speaker.” I think laypeople (by which I mean non-ELT people in this case) are not afraid of this term yet. Native American of course has its own meaning and could cause confusion if used incorrectly.
  7. works (n)
    This is probably more of a grammar point than the rest. “The complete works of William Shakespeare is fine” but “I have so many works to do is not fine.” This is a surprisingly common mistake (error?).
  8. foreigner
    I don’t exactly cry when I hear this word but I don’t think it is the best choice either. It sounds harsh and limiting and very “us versus them” to me. I also have a negative impression of this word being used by US and UK people to talk about things like “foreigners taking our jobs.” Doesn’t have a great ring to it, especially when the audience of the interpretations my students are doing is foreign people, non-Koreans and other people from abroad.  This word is especially interesting and dangerous when the speech takes place in a country that is not Korea and the question of who is a “foreigner” becomes a bit more complicated. There are of course L1 meanings and direct translations at play here but I stand by my advice to avoid this word.
  9. 3rd world
    Not only outdated but also arrogant. “Developing countries” has such a nice ring to it to my ears.
  10. gonna
    Simply off register.
  11. eradicate
    To use the example, I think eradicating piracy is fine but eradicating pirates sounds pretty harsh and violent and drastic.
  12. show off
    I sometimes feel some negative nuance from this word. Something about being arrogant or bragging. I feel like maybe my students would be better to simply say “show” when they don’t indeed to mean someone is being all showy about it.
  13. welfare
    This sounds like a dirty word to me. I might be wrong or missing something but I can’t imagine many American politicians talking about increasing “welfare.” Benefits, yes, but not welfare. Social safety net, probably, but not welfare. I think most politicians would talk about welfare reform or accuse their opponent of being a proponent of welfare (depending on the party affiliation perhaps).
  14. the locals [people]
    So rude and condescending, to my ears.
  15. reeducation
    Not something I’d say casually on this peninsula. It sounds very drastic and as one student suggested, “like brainwashing.” I think maybe “re-training” or continued education are more acceptable options here.
  16. industrial complex
    Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against the military industrial complex and I can’t help but think of this when I hear the term “industrial complex.” This is one I am worried I am too picky or strange about. Maybe others don’t think about the “military industrial complex” when they hear “industrial complex.” My suggestion was industrial park or zone or something like this. Of course the Kaesong Industrial Complex is its own thing and that is the proper name so we should probably call it by its name.
  17. a great leap forward
    According to Wikipedia, The Great Leap Forward was a campaign led by Mao Tse-tung which aimed to rapidly transform the country from an an agrarian to a communist society through rapid industrialization and collectivization yet ultimately caused the Great Chinese famine. No thanks. My suggestion lately has been something related to taking a quantum leap and I am sure Scott Bakula would be proud.
  18. co-prosperity scheme
    Please scheme below but this co-prosperity bit, here in Asia and especially here in Korea gives me pause. Why? The Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere is probably not something Korean government officials want to remind listeners of. I am ready to admit to being a bit too sensitive on this one but I still think there will always be better options out there.
  19. scheme
    For me, (and for many Americans but not Brits I think) this word conveys something a bit sneaky and suspicious. I remember talking about “park and ride schemes” in a class once and it seemed unnecessarily dodgy and much less savory than a “park and ride project” or something like this. I don’t want to say that we Yanks always assume something suspicious when we here the word “scheme” but I do want to highlight how this negative meaning might come to our minds even if not intended by the speaker or interpreter.
  20. wanna
    As above with “gonna.”

 

 

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8 comments

  1. livinglearning

    Very interesting and thank you for sharing these. I am with you on almost all of them. The most cringe-worthy for me were ‘new world order’ (for the same reasons), ‘foreigner’ (for 외국인 reasons), and ‘reeducation’ (because I used to read a lot of dystopian fiction).
    The ones I didn’t feel as strongly about are following:
    I don’t hear anything derogatory about welfare and it seems to me that it’s attached to “welfare benefits” and “improvements in the welfare system.”
    Industrial complex doesn’t call up any negative imagery for me (less up on politics than you are).
    And scheme has both neutral and negative connotations equally and I wouldn’t automatically assume it was a dodgy deal.
    I think it’s interesting how different linguistic experiences might lead to different interpretations.

    • mikecorea

      Hey! Thanks for commenting! I had a feeling you might find this post interesting.

      I thought there was something interesting here when I used this list for another class and found myself (over) stating that some of them are just for me and are not for all English speakers around.

      As you might have guessed I didn’t really look any of these up. I am tempted to check out scheme. I wonder what you think about scheme as a verb, by the way.

      I also wonder if you’d be kind enough to say more abotu what you mean by not liking “‘foreigner’ (for 외국인 reasons)

      Regarding re-education, I can’t believe i was so focused on North Korea and thus nothing else. Interesting point on dystopian fiction.

      Thanks again for the comments!

      On Thu, Dec 4, 2014 at 12:55 PM, ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections wrote:

      >

  2. David Harbinson

    My comments below on a point by point basis (written before reading your own comments)

    1. businesspeople is better.

    2. Negative conotation – think conspiracy theory and when I hear this, I can’t get the image of Alex Jones shouting out of my head.

    3. Hmm… this is a term I certainly use, and I know that the BBC for example use it in their news reports. I guess it might be confusing for people outside of East Asia, and may need some explaining. (On a side note, I think the bigger issue here is the lack of knowledge about the whole thing. When I’ve discussed the issue with some of my students, they are vaguely aware that there is an issue, but don’t, for example, know that every Wednesday, these women go and sit outside of the Japanese embassy. When I bring this up, the ask me ‘why?’!)

    4. I’d use this to talk about something that I don’t agree with or think is not real.

    5. Sounds more like a dictatorship to me. Ideas of strict government control and police brutality.

    6. Misuse of the word Native American in the example you’ve given. If used to refer to the indigenous people, can also be controversial(?) This is a term that I am confused on, actually, and have been asked about it by students, not been able to give a satisfactory answer.

    7. Used incorrectly in this context, should be uncountable.

    8. I generally suggest that my students avoid using nouns when describing people like this, as it can often have more of a negative connotation. Other examples include gays, blacks, etc. I suggest that my students use it as an adjective instead (foreign people, gay people, black people, etc.) I think by using the noun form of a word like this, you are defining a person (group of people) rather than describing them. I know that the British media, even the more left-wing papers, do still use the word foreigner(s), but it’s often used when the article has a bit more of a negative slant.

    9. The whole sentence doesn’t sound right to me. But in terms of ‘third world’ itself, it’s often just used incorrectly. It doesn’t (didn’t originally) mean developing countries, but rather referred to countries that were not allies with either the west or Russia during the Cold War. While at the time, it may just have been that those developing countries were not allies, I think the continued use is just wrong. It’s a term I would always suggest my students avoid using.

    10. Should be ‘going to’ in formal language. I often see this in my students’ writing, and they are surprised to find out that it’s not a ‘real’ word.

    11. I think the word itself is acceptable, perhaps better to be used with something like eradicate diseases.

    12. ‘Show off’ used intransitively would mean someone who is boasting, and is probably quite arrogant. “Mike is showing off now” or even as a noun, “Mike is a show-off”. However, used in the example you have provided, where it takes an object, I think it’s perfectly fine, and is in fact the term that I see quite often in tech news when big companies present their products to the world for the first time. If that’s what you’re getting at with this one, I think I’ll have to disagree with you when used in this sense.

    13. Welfare is one of those words, I’ve grown to not like, just because I hear it so often from my students. For example when used to describe the ‘welfare that companies provide’. So I don’t really know any more.

    14. Sounds a little derogatory. Along the same lines, although nowhere near as serious as Korean Air’s, “Primitive Kenya” ad.

    15. Images of Alex DeLarge strapped into a chair, eyes held open, forced to watch scenes of violence while listening to Beethoven’s Ninth.

    16. Not too sure about this one… My subway stop just happens to be called Seongseo Industrial Complex, so it’s a term I hear every day. I guess to me, it might have the meaning of being drab and grey areas???

    17. Too much of a cliche? It’s not something that I would work to correct though.

    18 & 19. I don’t see a problem with either of these. I think used as a noun, it sounds fine to me. Can have a different meaning when used as a verb though.

    20. Again, should be ‘want to’, and is another one I see quite a lot from students in their writing.

  3. cromney

    Very interesting list of words. Being in a different context, some of these terms my students don’t use, so I don’t see a problem. Others however… I’ve got no comment on, #3 Comfort Women for example. Well, other than to say that it is a direct English translation of the Japanese term. Whether or not that term should be used is another issue.

    But I do have some comments on #8 Foreigner.

    Many expat EFL teachers object to this word, but students don’t understand why, and teachers can’t quite explain it, other than to say, as Mike does above, “it doesn’t have a great ring to it.”

    If we take a step back, the root word of foreigner, foreign, has two distinct meanings. First, the original meaning is neutral and is ‘something from another country.’ (The origin of foreign is most likely derived from combining the old French ‘forain/foreyne’ or Latin ‘foranus’ both meaning outside and ‘sovereign’ meaning ruler, creating a word that literally means something with an outside ruler.)

    However, the second definition is, ‘something that is strange and/or unknown and therefore difficult to understand.’ If you look in a thesaurus, you find synonyms like: alien, barbarian, different, strange, unaccustomed, unfamiliar, unknown. These words clearly have a negative connotation.

    Here are a few examples of the second definition from the British National Corpus:

    1. “This idea was totally foreign and repugnant…”
    2. “Mental illness was a foreign concept to Aborigines until the arrival of whites in Australia.”
    3. “All else was foreign, strange, unexpected.”
    4. “It was foreign, alien and he felt very much out of place.”

    In these sentences, the meaning of foreign is not something from another country, but something that is unfamiliar and bad.

    So when you call someone a foreigner, or identify him or her as a foreigner, you are not only saying that he/she is from another country, but also that he or she is strange and difficult to understand. It is these negative connotations derived from the secondary meaning of the root word that make ‘foreigner’ not ‘have a great ring to it.’

    And I think that Mike is right when he hints that native speakers of English use foreign/foreigner when they want to highlight the negative aspects of something from abroad. When they want to focus on the positive (or neutral) they will use something like ‘international’ or ‘overseas.’ I also agree with David above that attaching foreign to a noun mitigates some of the negative connotations, foreign governments, foreign companies, etc. Foreign people is better than foreigner, but still not great.

    So what I teach my students is to try to more specifically identify whom they are talking about, ’employees transferred from abroad’ or ‘international exchange students,’ etc. and if they need a general term, I suggest non-Japanese.

  4. mikecorea

    Wow, David, I never expected such great comments (though I did sort of hope people would try to guess on their own). This is great…and I might even use your response in class. My responses to (some of) your responses are as follows.

    For #3 I think I made my case reasonably well. I think this is a perfect case of how were we stand might impact our thoughts and choices. I also appreciated your point about a lack of knowledge on this issue. This is interesting. I don’t think this is the place for a rant about focusing energy (and thus attention) on campaigns about what particular bodies of water should be known as in English. But on a serious note, knowing the facts and the whole situation (including the 1965 agreement) is a lot harder than just saying “The Japanese were bad” and such.

    For #6 I (and I think most USAmericans) would use the term Native Americans freely to discuss, umm, Native Americans. I believe Canadians would say “First Nations people.” I hope this clears things up a bit. Educated (PC?) americans don’t tend to say “Indians” these days for obvious reasons. There is, however an NFL team called the Redskins, so maybe we are not as reasonable as I am saying.

    #8 Thanks for the thoughts on this. Interesting to hear about the British newspapers for sure. I like the “don’t forget to say people” idea. One recent case was “foreign investors” but my student said “investments for from foreigners.” Quite a difference, right?

    Your point here reminded me about something that tends to bug me, when students say “I met a Chinese.” Apparently the dictionary (or grammar book or middle school teacher or something) says this is fine but it sounds terrible to me. I know this is a bit different than what you were saying but using the word person to describe a person is always helpful.

    I remember a student telling me he saw the gay in Washington DC. Also another point I guess.

    #9 I actually mentioned to students that 3rd world is sort of outdated in that the Cold War is pretty much over for now in most of the world. Regarding the example sentence, that sentiment is extreeeeemely common in speeches we work with. “Korea rose from the ashes of war and achieved industrialization and democratization at the same time. As you may know, Korea is the only country to transform itself from a recipient country to a donor country in the OECD. We’d love to share our experience with developing nations.”

    #10 For some reason I am surprised gonna would appear in formal writing. I thought it was just a spoken thing (and my students not always distinguishing between “writing-like speaking”

    #12 I appreciate your explanation and disagreement here. I think my example sentence let me down. I can’t remember the example or the grammar but something struck me as sounding a bit too arrogant with something related to “show off.”

    #13 Your point on welfare is very interesting to me. I think I have heard it a lot in the ways you mentioned it and I can see how it might cause confusion or worse.

    #14 I think the “primitive” thing was actually a mistranslation of something like pure.

    Thanks again for the great and insightful comments. Much appreciated. Lots of value here for students (and me!). Thanks, David.

  5. mikecorea

    An American friend on G+ left the following:

    This is why I don’t blog:

    businessman/businessmen
    “Thank you to all the businessmen who came to the conference today.”

    Hi, welcome to 1961!

    new world order
    “We are hoping to create a new world order based on trust and consensus.”

    Too loaded with neo-con conspiracy theory nut-baggery.

    comfort women
    “Japan needs to apologize sincerely for the comfort women issue.”

    Nobody else knows what this means.

    so-called
    “The so-called creative economy will help create ‘The 2nd Miracle on the Han.’”

    Haha…u serious? Negative connotations all ovah da place.

    regime
    “The Obama regime often praises the Korean education system.”

    Most Republicans would be comfortable with this usage, but typically the US (and other “relatively free” governments don’t use this term.)

    Native American
    “Mike is a Native American but he somehow knows a lot about Korean politics.”

    Let’s smoke-um peace pipe! (You started it; also I’m part Native American, so I plead the Chris Rock defense.)

    works (n)
    “We have been successful thus far but there are still many works to do.”

    For a great society! Haha…no.

    foreigner
    “We hope to have 10 million foreigners visit Korea next year.”

    Keep up that kind of talk and nobody will want to visit. Maybe that’s the idea? (Subconsciously!)

    3rd world
    “Korea would like to share its experiences and know-how with the 3rd world.”

    How “white” of them.

    gonna
    “In this speech I am gonna detail our efforts to expand the social safety net.”

    Too informal for writing and formal speech.

    eradicate
    “We will eradicate pirates.”

    Eliminate the word eradicate as a synonym for…oh you get it already.

    show off
    “Samsung is showing off its new phones.”

    How about “showcasing?” It occurs to me that some of these may be oddly appropriate (see “so-called” above #koreanpolitics).

    welfare
    “We need to increase welfare for the economically marginalized.”

    Despite the fact that everyone American ought to know that the preamble to the Constitution says that one of the roles of our government is to “promote the general welfare” of its citizens, the word has become a naughty one.

    the locals [people]
    “I had a nice chance to talk to the locals in Liberia and they are very kind.”

    This is also patronizing. I guess you should substitute the more sterile “local populace” or just omit local altogether.

    reeducation
    “We need to provide reeducation for people who lose their jobs.”

    Retraining is not brainwashing but reeducation is. Just education serves.

    industrial complex
    “We will create new industrial complexes across the country.”

    Thanks, Dwight.

    a great leap forward
    “If we work hard we can make a great leap forward.”

    Thanks, Mao.

    co-prosperity scheme
    “We have created a co-prosperity scheme that will be mutually beneficial”

    Thanks, Wile E. Coyote.

    scheme
    “The Korean government will create a scheme to promote low-carbon green growth.”

    See above.

    wanna
    We wanna have a better relationship with North Korea but first they have to dismantle their nuclear weapons program.”

    I’m gonna punch you in the throat if you use this one.

  6. Sandy Millin

    My thoughts, typed as I’m reading your post, and before I’ve looked at the comments:
    1. Didn’t even notice it was a man – to me it’s the name of a job, rather than a sexist statement.
    3. That term meant nothing whatsoever to me until you explained it.
    6. Having just spent a while in both the US and Canada, ‘Native American’ is a term I’ve had cause to think about. I had a First Nations guide for a tour to Whistler from Vancouver, and he was very expressive about why First Nations was the correct term to use, and how they were different from the Native Americans in the USA. I know this isn’t what your learner meant, but is obviously something they need to be aware of.
    8. I see your point, but what word would you use instead?
    12. Could you use ‘demonstrate’ here? ‘Show’ doesn’t seem like it’s active enough for that kind of example.
    16. ‘Complex’ seems like a mindset to me. Is it analogous to ‘industrial estates’? You also mentioned zones/parks, which I think sounds more reasonable.
    17. ‘Quantum leap’ still sounds a bit odd to me. Why not avoid metaphors and go for something more straightforward, like ‘huge progress’?
    18. Also a term that means nothing to me.
    19. ‘Scheme’ sounds OK, but I think I’d prefer something like ‘system’ or ‘programme’.

    • mikecorea

      Hello Sandy,
      A very belated thank you for your responses here.. Super helpful for me as I thought about these term (and it is nice to have another British English user sharing). Thanks! It is especially interesting to see some things wouldn’t mean anything to you.

      I think your point about the term Native American is a good one, and I think (my) students surely need to know this.

      I think instead of foreigner I’d try to say “foreign resident/tourist/investor/traveler/whatever” or maybe “non-Korean.”

      For 12, I will add “demonstrate” as an option the next time this comes up. Thanks so much!

      Finally, I think I will re-think my strong take on “scheme” because I feel like I have seen it around in situations where it doesn’t sound shady.

      Thanks again for the comments and changes to think about this and once again sorry for the delay!

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