Re: Appalling English

Subject: Re: Appalling English
From: Richard Yanowitz <ryanowitz -at- bigfoot -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2000 12:40:11 -0500

While no doubt well intended, if the positions illustrated here are typical of cultural thought in our profession, then however good we are at what we actually compose we're in deep trouble when it comes to thinking about our audiences (which ought to be our first guideline but too often isn't).

Is it possible for people not to feel they have to take sides on cultural differences or not to assume the superiority of their own culture (as in making one's own economic hegemony the yardstick [meter-stick?] for respecting another culture's linguistic [cultural?] merit)?

It ain't good to produce docs written by non-fluent writers who confuse readers with tortured language; and it equally ain't considerate/polite/respectful to expect people in other language groups, however narrowly or widely spread, to read one's native tongue (esp. when that tongue is as tormenting to learn as my own beloved English).

On the other hand, in good ol' capitalist spirit (caveat emptor and all that), vendors on both sides of this divide can apparently get away with distributing language goods that don't effectively service large numbers of customers. Aside from promoting this sordid consequence of deifying supply-and-demand, such behavior reinforces that perfidious notion with which our profession constantly struggles--that how you present information really doesn't matter as long as the information is there...somewhere.

We might all be well advised to ponder the provocative nuances of this writer's thoughtful slogan (cited at the end of the following snippet), which perhaps belies the text that precedes it.

At 11:23 AM 10/31/00 , you wrote:

...I think there's a good counterargument that Japanese is
spoken by only a tiny percentage of the population of the industrialized
world, while English is spoken by a much bigger number of educated people in
the developed world. Educated Japanese often read English, in fact. If I had
to do material in but one language for distribution to the industrialized
nations, I'd choose English. Supplying English exclusively isn't always
arrogance; it's also a pretty safe bet under most conditions.

That being said, if China ever becomes truly industrialized (read "fully
democratic and capitalistic"), then we'll all have to learn Chinese, because
there are more Chinese speakers on the planet than speakers of any other

"Better communication is a service to mankind."

Richard Yanowitz, NYC
mailto:ryanowitz -at- bigfoot -dot- com

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