79. Pen lefting in home, yeah?

Previously, I had heard young students saying sentences like these:

He is take outing my book.
She is fall downing and crying.

But I heard a new one today. This is infact not by the students but by a teacher during an examination. He was the designated invigilator and this is what he said to a student who didn’t have a pen.

Pen lefting in home, yeah? Who who boy left.. you boy left the pen, yeah?

This just made my day!
This is what makes Nepali English or Nenglish, I suppose.

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78. Case against Nepali Journalists of English papers – part II

I truly believe that the structure of a news article has to be simple. A news writer (journalist or translator or editor) has to make sure that the news is readable and understandable. That’s the essential objective of a news article.

News is not literature. Especially, if the news is a hard-news. It is not about ‘impressing’ the readers; it is about INFORMING the readers. Hence, simplicity is the only key.

So, here’s the second part of my published article “Case against Nepali Journalists of English newspapers” with a few suggestions on how to make news writing simple, readable and understandable. Of course, these are not by any means the best ways to write the news. I am only suggesting a few simplified versions. (You can probably suggest even simpler and better versions.)

a. Avoid ‘dangling’ modifiers

It was about 8:30 am, the organisers were honouring leaders with khada (strips of religious cloth) at the podium after the welcome speech when Basnet climbed up the stage and struck Shyam Sangat and Narmada Pokharel who were announcing with a wooden frame.

A better version:

After the welcome speech, the organisers were honouring the leaders with khada (strips of religious cloth) at the podium. Then, Basnet climbed up the stage and struck the announcers, Shyam Sangat and Narmada Pokharel, with a wooden frame.

A day after the Sita Air Dornier plane crash on the banks of the Manohara River that killed all 19 people on board, office-bearers of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and domestic airline companies held a meeting under the chair of Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Posta Bahadur Bogati at the ministry, to find ways to avert air crashes.

A better version:

A day after the Sita Air plane-crash on the banks of the Manohara River, office-bearers of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and domestic airline companies held a meeting at the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. In the meeting, they discussed on ways to avert air crashes.
Nineteen people had lost their lives in yesterday’s plane-crash.

Gajurel also warned that his party would sabotage Dahal and Bhattarai’s dream of sticking to power for 25 years through a wave of street protests.

A better version:

Gajurel also warned that, through a wave of street protests, his party would sabotage Dahal and Bhattarai’s dream of sticking to power for 25 years.

Or.

Gajurel also warned of street protests that would sabotage Dahal and Bhattarai’s dream of sticking to power for 25 years.

b. Some tense-shifts do not make sense

CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal today said that the country’s nationalism was at risk due to the wrong decisions of UCPN-Maoist-led government.

A better version:

CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal has said that the country’s nationalism is at risk due to the wrong decisions of UCPN-Maoist-led government.

Without pinpointing any country, the UML chairman charged that foreign powers were responsible for bringing about division in his party.

A better version:

Without pinpointing any country, the UML chairman claimed that foreign powers are responsible for causing the division in his party.

Or.

Without pinpointing any country, the UML chairman claimed that foreign powers caused the division in his party.

c. Normal headlines are always better

But these are not:

Teen stabs girl, self

Chief, health secys will their eyes

Kids elope, parents get them hitched, all land in soup

Male temple virgin tradition still alive in Dailekh

Legal eagles okay CJ-led govt

Missing P in Nepali tea

Dailekh drowns in dread as clashes crop up

I leave this to the news writers/journalists/translators themselves.

d. Avoiding complex and long sentences

District Police Office Rautahat Chief SP Govinda Ram Pariyar has been accused of embezzling fund after submitting fake documents of temporary police personnel who had quit before the Constituent Assembly polls.

Meanwhile, a junior officer at the police office demanded air investigation into the submission of the wrong document and fund embezzlement in the name of those who quit and stern action against the accused if proven guilty.

A better version:

District Police Office Rautahat Chief SP Govinda Ram Pariyar has been accused of embezzling fund. He has been charged of submitting fake documents of the temporary police personnel who had quit before the Constituent Assembly polls.
Meanwhile, a junior officer at the police office has demanded investigation into the case and stern actions against the culprit.

(And, as one who deleted his/her comment noted, the above example suffers from a long noun-string as well – District Police Office Rautahat Chief SP Govinda Ram Pariyar. So it would be more simpler, if the noun-string was to be broken down.)

SP Govinda Ram Pariyar, chief of District Police Office in Rautahat, has been accused of embezzling fund. He has been charged of submitting fake documents of the temporary police personnel who had quit before the Constituent Assembly polls.
Meanwhile, a junior officer at the police office has demanded investigation into the case and stern actions against the culprit.

I hope, some day, some writers/journalists will stumble upon these simple suggestions. And make our lives easy.

77. Easier said than done but if worse comes to worst, just hang in there!

Easier said than done but if worse comes to worst, just hang in there!
(Published on Nelta Choutari, December 2013 Issue)

Umes Shrestha
www.latebecame.wordpress.com
Lecturer, blogger and a podcaster

Right at the outset, let me state that I am taking a very controversial stance here. Because many supporters of World Englishes believe that for second language learners of English, gaining native like competence of English is a myth. It’s not possible, and, in essence, it’s not necessary. Let’s face it, they also tell you that the ‘coded-down’ version of English (or the English as Lingua Franca) is the only way forward because English will eventually lose its standard-ness.

Fine by me but here’s my stance. If a learner wants to speak (or write) English better, he/she has to try and learn how the native speakers of English use the language in real life context. In addition to acquiring the sense of vocabulary, structure, forms and semantics, the learner also has to develop the pragmatic fluency in English. (I am not talking about American accent or British accent or any such accent, though.) Therefore, I strongly believe that only by learning and acquiring unique characteristics and nuances of English language will the learners become more competent and proficient in it.

Some of the areas of such nuances in a language are the use of figurative expressions (idiomatic expressions, phrases, proverbs, etc). Similar to our own Nepali language, English language is also very rich in such figurative expressions. Using these expressions (let’s say: idioms) add color and imagination in speech and in writing. This obviously holds true for all the language. Nepali language would most certainly be pretty bland if it didn’t have any figurative expressions. So, by mastering the use of English idioms, one’s English can become more natural and less awkward, more articulated and less dull. Learners and users of English will be able to produce and interact in English at a different creative level.

Normally, we don’t find any trace of this concept in standard textbooks because the curriculum and syllabus are usually ‘water-downed’ for general learners of English. Just flip through Our English books for Class 9 and 10. Why there’s no focus on this aspect of English is quite beyond me. English magazines, newspapers, stories, TV shows, movies are however full of figurative expressions. Imagine the shock and dismay when learners discover the real English used in real contexts, when they find that the English in real life can be quite different than the English in textbooks. Hence there are always chances that students and learners know English language but do not know how to use and understand English language competently and fluently.

And even when students use or try to understand the meaning of idioms, they try to translate them word-for-word at a very literal level. But translating the idioms into one’s mother tongue will only compound the problem. Figurative expressions are unique properties of a language and when translated into another language, they usually lose their true essence and purpose.

temper

For instance, let’s consider the sentence with a very common idiom:

Sentence 1: He insulted me and I lost my temper.

In Nepali the literal meaning of ‘to lose’ is ‘haraaunu’.

Sentence 2: I lost my money. (maile paisa haraaye)
Sentence 3: I lost my book yesterday. (maile hijo kitab haraaye)

These two sentences 2 and 3 make sense even when translated into Nepali. But. If a Nepali learner of English translates the Sentence 1 in the similar vein, he/she will only come up with confused and even nonsensical meaning. This is the reason why the figurative expressions are difficult to learn, acquire and eventually master.

Similarly, the following sentences can be difficult for Nepali learners to understand and to use in their real contexts because, again, translation doesn’t help.

Sentence 4:       I can’t stand Science class because it is way over my head.
Sentence 5:       You don’t stand a chance of getting good score in Science because it is
way over your head.

And, here are some real instances from my classroom.
Me:                  Alright students, let’s wrap up today’s lesson.
Student:            (with a confused face) Sir, wrap ta gift lai garne hoina?
Sir, we only wrap gifts, don’t we?

Me:                  Guys and girls, keep it down.
Student:            What to keep down?

Thus, unless a learner ‘develops a knack’ for figurative expressions through practice and enough exposure, it will be difficult for him/her to develop English language competency.

Moreover, using figurative expressions adds ‘fun’ to the English language. It’s thrilling and it’s entertaining. Many a times, it’s defamiliarizing. (Here’s the buzzword!). And it goes without saying that ‘enjoying the language’ is one of the most essential requirements to learning and acquiring a second language. We can also call this fun element an ‘intrinsic motivation’ or ‘internal drive’ to get better and to prosper in the language one is learning.

So, I request my fellow English language teachers to incorporate figurative expressions in their teaching as per their discretion. We all know… we will have to put in a little extra effort because it may not be in the textbooks. But don’t give it a second thought. Implement it. You’ll enjoy it. The students will enjoy it.

I hope you will just give it a shot!
Great!

Some links:

Devil’s Advocate vs Vicki Hollett on ELF
http://chiasuanchong.com/2012/03/04/devils-advocate-vs-vicki-hollett-on-elf/

Chia Suan Chong speaks about English as a Lingua Franca
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oB6traNccQQ