The versatility of English

You know what I love about English? How in infiltrates every aspect of our lives. It’s not just a language, it is a way of life. An English ‘life’ is different from a French ‘life’ or Algerian ‘life’ because the sub-text, nuances, and cultural references (and cultural history!) of each language is different. As culture is different – even minimally, like British English and Canadian English – life is different. We use different words to describe the same things…and these words, phrases, and concepts have meanings all their own. As an English as a Second Language teacher, a simple English phrase like ‘give me a ballpark figure’ or ‘ what’s the scoop?’ can take up a lot of time in explaining it to learners of the language. It can’t really be explained without adding in some English cultural references. Just as, obviously, the same for learners of French, German, Algerian, Russian, or any other language.

I am not saying English is more versatile than any of those languages; I am saying that it is a ‘simple to use but complicated to master’ tool like any other language. With each word comes all sorts of cultural baggage, and it is the teacher’s (or editor’s) honourable task to make it properly understood within a certain context. Contexts change, and so do the meanings of the words we use in them…even if they are the same words. A ‘printer’ could be the device in an office or it could be a person who prints things as a business. and the reader only knows which one to use based on the context of the rest of the words. For any sort of written work, it is up to the editor to make sure the context is properly understood. That’s why it is so important to have a skilled editor in your corner (another culturally-charged phrase). It is our job to make the work say what you want it to say, to the people you want to say it to, with ease of reading, colour, action, and even a little fun.

At Greentree we excel in this. Our small company of 3 people in culturally-colourful and multi-lingual Montreal focuses on taking the time to understand your needs, your audience, and how to bring the two together simply and efficiently. And we take the time to work with you until it says exactly what you want it to say. Since 2007, we have edited material for web pages, books, presentations, and commercial documents for both local and international clients. And we love it.

Do you have a question or comment about the above? Let’s start a discussion to see how we can work together!

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