Saturday, June 01, 2019

I before E,

"Miss, I sit my Australian citizenship test soon. I need to know the rules for Australian English".

"Giovanni, I can tell you about the past participle rule, but very few English speakers know it. To use the colloquial term, they just wing it with past and present participles. I can tell you one rule though, that is, I before E except after W".

"Thank you Miss. You have helped me a lot."

Giovanni was deported to Italy two weeks later after failing the citizenship test.

This word play on the coffee mug below is so clever. Is there any other language in the world that doesn't have rules for so many things, and you either know or you don't? I do not understand how people can learn Australian English unless they are immersed in it and listen carefully and absorb the knowledge. I don't write this with any kind of pride about our language being special in any way. It is unique though and if you were born here, you probably speak it well enough, but be very forgiving towards those who were not born here, or are of Aboriginal heritage and have their own language(s) to understand first.

But to do well in any western English speaking country, you really do good local language skills, along with the somewhat easier written word skills. You may have, and I certainly have, heard of someone with perfect English writing skills who could not understand a word that was being said and none could understand what they were saying.

31 comments:

  1. LOVE that mug.
    And worry about the current guvermint's plans to beef up the language test for migrants. Ours is a difficult and frequently illogical language.

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    1. EC, you will understand below, but what hope for someone who was not brought up with English.

      Logic and English EC? Ne're the twain shall meet.

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  2. That mug is priceless! I have a German friend who could speak English very well, but the writing part was a challenge.

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    1. Maribeth, I think the person must have been immersed in English then, and not learnt it formally.

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  3. And yet there are people who are born and Bred in the UK -Britain who do not speak or understand any form of English. these people are mostly elderly Welsh citizens who time left behind. but they are very few. Interesting post Andrew.

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    1. Vest, no Gaelic speaking Scots now? I guess they can speak English too, if that is what Scots speak. It can be hard to tell at times.

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  4. My schooldays English teacher 'Atilla D Bates insisted it was Learn Learned and learning, not learnt or learnting. his large cane which we held in awe helped with our education

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    1. Clever name, Vest. I have no truck with learnting nut I am happy enough with learnt. There was something that was very right about education back then that turned out very literate adults.

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  5. And even Einstein got it wrong; TWICE.

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  6. This is why I used to help the migrants in the factories. They'd learned proper English before coming out, but couldn't understand the Australian version.

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    1. River, I remember you saying. Is our speech all that weird? It seems it is. Assuming they were from Europe, they would have heard English English, I guess.

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  7. Australian English in writing or spoken? I don't mind how people speak, but whenever a newspaper has a spelling error (through instead of threw, this week), I feel like ringing the editor and giving him a blast.

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    1. Hels, we pay them to write things we want to read, yet they cannot get the basics right. Bring back the proofreaders, I say. I've known a couple of them years ago and they took their profession very seriously.

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    2. Proofreading? I'll volunteer!

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  8. The mug made me laugh out loud Andrew and no I'm not calling you a mug 😀

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    1. Grace, I don't mind if you want to call me dirty names.

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  9. Funny mug. I can't see how a foreigner without years of immersion among primarily speakers of the language he or she is learning, in a new country, could ever know the local language uses, in word or writing, as those who grew up speaking local lingoes.

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    1. Strayer, I think you are quite right, no matter what the language is. But some languages are easier to get than others.

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  10. My goodness, I totally adore that mug! In the US we have so many slang terms that it's becoming quite difficult to figure out what in the heck people are saying.(lol) Hugs...RO

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    1. RO, we are pretty good here at obscure slang too.

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  11. Having read in this morning's paper a post a 14 year old boy put up on his Instagram or whatever, I wonder how kids are being taught at home and at school. Both his spelling and grammar were atrocious.

    He posted, with images of himself giving "gang" symbols with his hands/fingers, while in hospital being treated for injuries sustained. He was eating from a large bag of KFC.

    He helped create an horrendous car crash (stolen car). The car, wrapped around a light pole was cut in two. The crash killed one of his mates, aged 14 years. A 10 year old girl was included in the "gang"!

    Where the hell are the parents? Probably all high on ice or similar!!!

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    1. Lee, a pity he did not remove himself from the gene pool. At first glance Tradie Brother's children are generally hopeless at written English, being pretty well digital natives but I know they can write properly if they have to, slowly. Whereas Sister's daughter at 12, would run rings around them with here writing skills and vocabulary. Lots of reading to her when she was young, she devours books now and a good state school all helped, and of course both her mothers are well educated too.

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  12. Pronunciation is one thing I suspect we bloggers from different English-speaking countries would find a challenge, but it's not obvious because we are communicating by written word.

    Our son-in-law was born in Australia and the accent was ingrained by the time he made his way to the USA with his parents and then to Canada where he met our daughter. I still have to ask him to repeat what he's said most of the time. And listening to British clips on YouTube, I generally have to replay at least three times to get every word. I often wonder how our Canadian English sounds to those from away. It's amazing how differently we all speak the same language.

    The mug is funny! When I was growing up the rule we were taught was "i before e, except after c, or when it says 'ay' (long a), as in 'neighbour' or 'weigh'", but clearly that still doesn't cover everything!

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    1. Jenny, yes very much so. There are at times some strange English words you use that we don't but generally we are much the same. We are at an advantage as we hear many American accents in our films and on tv, along with British English shows, and day to day we hear Asian, Indian and other accents. I hadn't heard that qualification for i before e, and it does make the rule work more often.

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  13. That is an awesome mug I must say!

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    1. CM, it would be good talking point for visitors to your home.

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  14. I further recall sitting in a classroom with the windows closed during winter when one of the boys would FART, Then Attilla who experienced gassing during WW1 would yell; "Open the windows and open the doors" and the boys would mutter " Down with the roof and up with the floors".

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  15. The mug is funny :) I suppose all languages have their rules and exceptions and sometimes not even the locals learn them properly.
    Kids nowadays do not learn to spell properly maybe due to the use of mobiles and computers that do spell check and also due to lack of reading.
    I've always been good at spelling in any language I learned, but when I came to Australia I had trouble understanding people because of the accent. It took me a couple of months before I could understand what most people were saying. And then there were the typical Australian expressions that I had never heard before, like someone telling a story about a "chook" and everybody laughed and Jose and I were just clueless :)

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    1. Sami, I think my spelling has deteriorated because of spell checkers. I will make the same mistake over and over instead of learning the spelling. Chook is a great Australian word but yes, what on earth would non natives make of it. Old curse, may a chook kick your dunee down.

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