TEACHING YOU THE LANGUAGE THE LANGUAGE SCHOOLS DON'T TEACH, AND
GIVING YOU THE EXAMPLES THE EXEMPLARY SCHOOLS DON'T GIVE
What this blog is for and about
I also offer personally-tailored, individualized English conversation practice (including etiquette) and coaching in writing techniques. Finally, I edit texts such as magazines, business proposals, memorandums, emails so they are presented in English which does not embarrass you or your organization. For further details, please mail me at: email@example.com
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When is жадность not разумная – when putting Russian thoughts into English prose, if you don’t want to seem провинциальный
I am a writer, but I earn my daily bread by editing texts
which Russians have written and putting them into smooth, idiomatic and clear
English. I have recently tried to explain to some potential customers why this
is so important. It occurs to me that I should maybe try to make my point to a
The main reason is the difference between verbal and written
communication. Face-to-face you communicate as much by body language as by the
words you use. If your listener does not understand you, he or she will ask
what you mean, and you can correct what you have just said. Likewise, if you
say something offensive, or obviously stupid or wrong, you will see by your
listener’s reaction and have an opportunity to correct what you said, or to elaborate
on it to make your meaning clear.
None of this applies when texts are in writing only. That has to be absolutely correct, or you will risk creating
all sorts of communication difficulties.
In addition, there is something
attractive about a Russian accent, and interesting about the unusual ways in
which Russians misuse English when speaking.
But accents do not come across on the printed page, and mistakes on paper are
not interesting; they simply look провинциальные.
much cheaper than looking a fool. The best example I have ever come across is
the sign (pictured above) on the Kazan railway station which I saw when travelling
to Siberia some years ago. РЖД
had previously spent billions of roubles modernising and beautifying the
station for some international football competition or other. Yet they put that
sign up. The idea of giving instructions in English was a good one. But to do
so in the way it was done looks idiotic. There are four mistakes in the six
English words used.
I usually charge 4 roubles a word for style-editing and
correcting texts. So it would have cost the Russian Railways 24 roubles to have
had me correct that sign. The fancy modern new station would not have cost
billions of roubles and looked naff, but would have costs billions and 24
roubles and looked smart, modern (as the rest of it does) and, due to the use of English, welcoming to visitors
Which is more sensible? Why is meanness considered sensible in
matters like these? Always get important
text checked by a native speaker.