Newspaper Language


In my travels about the world - well the roman writing part of it - usually a newspaper can be reasonably well understood by a 12 year old.

In a country where english is not the first language, why do we find words like “solecism” and “interpelation” in the English language newspapers? Do the writers study a lot of language without studying usage??

I would like to use English language newpapers as a stepup in teaching material. I guess I will have to import them - but then they lose the local interest and contemporality.


I think part of the reason may be because the news article you are referring to is a “mechanical” translation from the Chinese version that appear several days ago (in the Chinese newspapers). I think this increasingly happens as it is cheaper to field just Chinese speaking reporters and then translate than to field Chinese and English reporters (duplication). (or vice versa depending upon the location/topic)

The translator or English writer in this case is also probably not a “native” speaker of English or too short on time to provide a more readable English copy.

For me this highlights one of the biggest problem with learning to read Chinese (newspapers). There are so many “words” (characters) or expressions in Chinese that mean roughly the same thing in English, that one is just so overwhelmed initially by the task of absorbing all that “new” vocabulary with little increase in terms of new meaning.

In addition to using many words that mean the same thing, Chinese writers like to use “big” words. This is suppose to be a sign of competence as well as greater analytical prowess!

I am learning to read their equivalent of the “Financial Times”. You know the pink paper. Chinese name is: “Xiang Gang Jing Ji Ri Bao” because it is produced in Hong Kong.

And if you could read it I think you too would agree and be amazed at the different words they used to express the same thing. And I mean really common terms in accounting/finance such as “costs”, “profit”, “capital”,“expense”,“sales” etc… Finance is already a mind-boggling experience for most English people but to put it in Chinese !! well I am not surprise more Chinese people are confused and it is out of bounds for all but the highly literate. Imagine how many more explanatory “notes to the accounts” you need to have behind your financial statements if accounts were made up only in Chinese and “translated” to English. (Thank God for English!)

But the good thing is: you get through in the end. Most (after learning Chinese as their first language) find strange words in English easier to remember. They are also frequently amazed at how “far” you can go with English even though you have a very small vocabulary. You can trade with someone in South America with a very tiny vocabulary and without having even to exert yourself learning Spanish or Portuguese as backup.


In a country where english is not the first language, why do we find words like “solecism” and “interpelation” in the English language newspapers?

Because sometimes they’re the right words. Interpellation is what it is. This isn’t a case of using a fancy word when a simple one will do just as well.

I admit I was a bit surprised by the “solecism” in the lead of today’s Taipei Times editorial. But editorials and features deserve greater leeway in their vocabulary than regular news items.

Certainly some translators have bad cases of “dictionary English” and synonymitis. But what really annoys me is not the correct use of needlessly fancy words but their incorrect use, which is much more damaging in an ESL environment.


Did you write that article? Such defensiveness!


Defensive? How is Cranky being defensive? Sounds pretty matter of fact to me.

quote[quote]Most ... find strange words in English easier to remember. [/quote]

I never looked at things this way before, but it makes sense.

I grew up in the Philippines, where “big” words in English can become popular, and eventually overused and used inappropriately. For example, after the Marcos’s fled, the then new gov’t sought to “sequester” what Marcos assets they could find. For a time, it seemed “to sequester” became a fixture in everyone’s vocabulary (“Where’re the car keys? Did Mom sequester them?”)

Every now and then, someone in the country (political hack, usually) says something outlandish or, at least, very colorful, and then everyone picks up on it.