A load of crap?

Last Friday I was travelling home by train. As we approached the mountains that separate Asturias from the great plains of Central Spain, I struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me, who I’d seen using English in a message he’d been writing on his phone.

He turned out to be an American businessman from Chicago, and almost immediately he remarked on the vast fields of wheat we were passing through, and their similarity to the areas of the Midwest he was from. We then got on talking about the usual things – climate change, Brexit, Brexit, climate change, and so on.

As we were talking about the wheat all around us, he started to tell me about the corn they grew in his part of the States. By AmE ‘corn’ I knew he meant BrE maize, and so I wasn’t surprised when he told me that by now it would be 7 to 8 feet high in the fields. I’d seen this so many times in films, with people running between the rows of corn for one or other reason.

What I didn’t expect though, was his next revelation. Following on from something I’d said about climate change, he told me that in the area where he farmed they’d had ‘bumper craps’ for the last three years.

I confess I was thrown for a few seconds while I frantically searched for some sort of logic. If there could be no joy in prolonged constipation, what was the fun of abundant depositions? Then the accent machine kicked in, I realised that his vowels (or ‘bowels’ as my Spanish students would say) weren’t the same as mine, and everything slipped back into place. The incident left me wondering, though, if in the end we might not have to revise the Lingua Franca Core to include certain vowel qualities to accompany the long vowel in ‘her’, which is the only quality Jenkins 2000 LFC stipulated. Then again, it’s probably not worth the effort; a lot of people think the LFC is a load of crap anyway.

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3 thoughts on “A load of crap?

  1. Robin, I had a good laugh reading your post. Pronunciation can trigger really funny interactions.

  2. There’s a poster for the new Ice Age film which I took a moment to understand this morning, with my British pronunciation. It said ‘kiss your ice goodbye’.

  3. Hah! Robin its clear that if the characteristics of vowels in different varieties of NS and NNS English are not revisited, ignoring the proverbial elephant…. we will stay bogged down much longer in the quicksand of “proper English”, (stragglingly widened to included “proper Englishes”).

    Non-recognition of varieties of spoken English is a blind-spot that has held hostage the education sector, coaches and teachers, individual learners and whole nations and language groups in their efforts to recognise all the real challenges to achieving global communicative ease.

    As the blind-spot ( or in this case “deaf-spot”) is removed, and the focus on varieties sharpened up…… only then can there be recognition of what is really going on in the articulatory anatomy – and auditory processing.

    Many “authorities” (institutions, research and publishers etc), having comfortably followed along in the traces for decades, will rethink the hitherto unchallenged positions and (culturally questionable) models which have hampered progress in global communication and language acquisition, and what these are striving to achieve.

    On a lighter note, in theme with your reflection: just think what would happen to Spanish speakers who were only ever exposed to an Auckland model of English- they would have great trouble opening their (b/v)owels! and would probably utter “Crep”, which might greatly confuse a francophone!

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