Re: fwd: you or he/it

Subject: Re: fwd: you or he/it
From: Peter Neilson <neilson -at- alltel -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 21 Jun 2006 11:02:28 -0400

Anonymous Poster wrote:

We now have a new Japanese Project Leader who wishes me to create a
completely new, FORMAL format, eliminating you, sprinkling it/he

The English that is taught in Japan as a formal, academic
subject differs substantially from American English and to
some degree from British English. The English that some
Japanese learn as a non-academic hobby also differs from
Western English. (Japanese baseball has a number of supposedly
English terms that are unintelligible to American baseball
fans. Google for < niter "Japanese baseball" >.)

The Japanese manager probably learned his English from
native Japanese professors with degrees in English. He
will likely not be convinced that any version of English
other than his own is correct until someone can present to
him, in a face-saving manner, that only a Japanese person
is qualified to say whether some Japanese-language document
written by a gaijin is correctly done, regardless of said
gaijin's education or advanced degrees in Japanese
literature; and that the same situation obtains for English.

The difficutly is that it doesn't quite. You are in an
environment that already has people who learned English
from non-native speakers. I don't know how you'll sell
it, but the important idea is that Japanese English is
much further removed from the direct style understood by
Western speakers to be correct than is, for instance,
the English used by French, German, or Italian technical
writers. Indeed, the ideas of depersonalization and of
avoiding conflict are likely part of the philosophy
underneath the discussion of which words are to be used.

Years ago, we used to see stuff like this:
"Implementing new colour scheme is accomplish with
pressing mouse crick one time during cursor move over 'colors'
botton." (Yes, I've actually seen "crick" and "botton"--I'm
not making them up!)

We had to decode it into:
"If you want a new colour scheme, click on the 'colors' button."

The more recent ESL version might be:
"The method for making new colour scheme is the mouse click on
'colors' button."

The battle between US-style technical English and "Oriental"
English is less fierce than it once was, because there is
more acceptance among non-native writers of English that
they ought to accept the help that is readily available via
the Internet (right here on TECHWR-L!). But even among the
native speakers, there is a substantial disagreement over
whether tech writing should be "formal" in the manner that
is taught for the laboratory notebook, where it is improper
to write:

"I added 3 grams of NaCl to the mixture and noticed an
immediate change in the temperature. It seemed to get
colder by about 10 degrees C. I was using the copper
constantan thermocouples that I borrowed from Prof Smith
in Physics."

The active voice and the first-person construction are
regarded as wrong. The "correct" version goes more like this:

"3 g NaCl were added to the mixture. Result was temperature
drop by 10 deg C as measured by Cu-constantan thermocouple."

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fwd: you or he/it: From: Anonymous Poster

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