Friday, January 20, 2012

Language Mastery = Language Regression?

Today, it occurred to me that the better you know a language, the more you personalize it, thereby actually speaking worse.  Let me be clear: By "personalization," I don't just mean using certain words and phrases often that convey your personality.  I mean to say that in addition to doing all of that, you create words that don't exist, make nouns into verbs, screw up the grammar structure, and insert meaningless filler words, all simply because you figure that people will still understand you.  For the most part, in your native language, you can do this because other native speakers of the same age and from the same region will understand you and reply in a similar fashion.

I am a serious offender of personalizing American English, and have been for almost as long as I can remember.  The funny thing about a language is that native speakers feel free to change it, as if it's their given right to invent words as needed.  Obviously, there are important differences between colloquial conversation (how I write my blog), formal writing (school), and crappy IM writing (facebook chat), and it's essential to know which to use when.  If I walked around speaking like a formal composition, I'd have no friends.  Similarly, if I turned in an application full of IM-speak, I'd be rejected instantly, and rightfully so.  If you think you're awesome at English, try to read the poem at this link out loud:

The way I speak is...unique.  Here are some examples of how I've customized American English:

1. I was very London (new adjective!) - and I hadn't even been there yet!
2. What are you doing for Semana Santa?  I'm "Italy-ing" with my dad.  (new verb!)
3. What are you doing later?  Dinner-ing with some friends.  (new verb!)
4. Message me/Facebook me.  (This is Spanish sentence structure with English words.  Proper English: Send me a message.)
5. That's super-cool!  (You only add "super" like this in Spanish, but I say this more in English than in Spanish.  Some people call this "language pollution," but I think of it as more of an enhancement.)
6. That sweater is really Dana-ish, and those shoes are definitely Dana-friendly.  (my personal adjectives)
7. I'm reasonably sure that's it's not okay to say "personalization" as a noun instead of "personalize," but for the sake of this blog post, I'm gonna leave it.  However, personalización is a word in Spanish.

These seven examples all show incorrect uses of the English language.  That being said, you probably understood all of them without much effort.

What I want to know, is whether it's ok to also personalize a language other than your native language.  Granted, it would be much more difficult to do that since you have to 1) have a very strong grasp of a language to be able to mess it up and still be understood, and 2) you have to pull it off.  I think that in order to pull it off, you have to be confident enough when you say whatever you're saying that people actually try to understand you instead of writing you off as someone who speaks poorly.  So basically, when you learn to speak at a high enough level, you earn the right to regress by screwing up the language and still being understood.  Weird, right?
Perhaps I should let you in on the real reason for which I want to know when it becomes acceptable to start personalizing a language.  You see, "twitear," is a verb in Spanish that means "to tweet," in English.  Twitter, not birds.  I want to know why it's okay to say "twitear," but not "amigar," as in "to friend someone on facebook."  Amígame...friend me!  It sounds so natural.  But instead, I'm still stuck saying, "añadirme como amiga," or something like that.  "Add me as a friend," in English.  So, is it acceptable for me to say "amigar," or is it never okay for me to introduce changes to Spanish since I'm not a native speaker?  A group of 77 new BU students arrived, and I'd just like to say:


  1. It's like a clown who is so good at what he does that he can do stunts on a unicycle yet act like he doesn't know how to ride. By the way, customization is really a word.

    1. Hey there,

      Or, it's like the evil stepsisters in Cinderella at the Paris Opera Ballet - amazing dancers who pretend to dance very badly.

      I thought customization was a word when I originally wrote the post, but spell check kept telling me it wasn't. Maybe the spell check was in Spanish.

  2. I just looked up customization, personalization, and personalización. As we thought, "customization" is a word in English. "Personalization" is not a word in English; however, the word "personalización" exists in Spanish. My English is becoming Spanish-ified.

    If you're curious, "Spanish-ified" is a word that exists in Dana-ish, and "Dana-ish" is a term which now references my personal language and, as said before, is one of my personal adjectives.