The English tag features blog posts about the English language, its people, cultures and history and English translation services.

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Badly Constructed English Sentences

Theatre masks badly constructed english

We talk a lot about English, context for translation and clear communication on our blog.

On the funnier side of things, badly constructed English can lead to some comical misinterpretations. If you carefully listen to people talking you will hear many silly comments. You’ll nearly always know what they mean, but it’s not what they say, it’s how they say it.

Yesterday, I was listening to a lady on the radio discussing her morning working on the family farm and managing her children. She came out with this very simple sentence: “When I get up in the morning, I feed the chickens and my kids and then I take them to school“. We know what she meant, but the image of her bringing the “chickens and kids” to school makes us giggle.

Groucho Marx used this type of English misinterpretation to his advantage in a joke used to positive effect in his famous one-liners: “I once shot an elephant in my pajamas. What he was doing in my pajamas I’ll never know!

Got any funny misinterpretations you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.

The STAR Team

7 Funniest English Grammar Mistakes

Seven of the Funniest English Grammar Mistakes

English is one of the most spoken languages in the world. But how well are we using it? Most of the time we are all really good at speaking English, but there are a few words that we constantly mix up.

As we proofread documents we come across a lot of common misunderstandings in the use of certain English words.

Here is an infographic we designed to help eliminate some of the common errors we come across every day.

Seven Funniest English Grammar Mistakes

Infographic, Seven Funniest English Grammar Mistakes

Did we miss anything? Let us know…

The STAR Team

Top 10 Languages on the Internet

Top 10 languages on the Internet

Top 10 Languages on the Internet, 2011

We are often asked, “what is the best language to translate our website into?”

More and more people are using the Internet every day, and in many different languages. The chart above will help you decide which languages to translate your website into based on the number of Internet users and the languages they use online.

As English is an international language, the analytics from Internet World Stats show that most people use English when surfing the web. Indeed, English speaking internet users increased by 5%, from 537 million users to 565 million between 2010 and 2011.

Chinese ranked second with about 510 million internet users. The number of Chinese internet users increased by 14.6% from 445 million in 2010 to 510 million in 2011.

Then, Spanish ranked third with a growth increase of 7.8% between 2010 and 2011. The number of Spanish internet users grew from 153 to 165 million.

Top 10 languages on the Internet, Internet users by languages in 2011
Users by language, 2011

We partner with companies selling worldwide to help them grow their business globally. We provide translation services, global consultancy and multilingual SEO advice for more than 70 languages.

The STAR Team

At the time of publication we offered translation services for 40 languages. We have updated this article to read more than 70 languages as part of our new services – 11th December 2015

What’s the difference between among and amongst

Question Mark

Difference Between among and amongst

We are often asked what the difference is between two words and which is most appropriate for a given text.

When is it correct to use among or amongst?

For once, it’s an easy answer: You can actually use both of them.

Among seems to be more appropriate and popular in modern writing. Indeed, when reading news articles, among appears more commonly.

On the other hand, you can use amongst when writing fiction like fairy tales.  It’s a bit old-fashioned. And thus suits the context and style of fictional stories that tend to be set in the past.

The STAR Team

Mandarin Chinese, Most Spoken Language in Business

Chinese Mandarin, most spoken language in business

Chinese Mandarin, most spoken language in business

Most Spoken Language in Business, Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin is the official spoken language in China. It is spoken by 730 million people. According to Bloomberg Rankings, it is now scored highest in a ranking of languages for business usefulness, excluding English.

The rankings takes into account…

  • the number of speakers
  • the number of countries where the language is official
  • economical rates
  • educational rates

Doing business in Asia will call more and more for language abilities to be successful in non-English speaking countries. It provides advantages by being closer to the culture and habits and it also favours connections in a faster and more complex business environment.

World Facts

Number of speakers in the world per language (approximations only):

  • French; 75.9 million*
  • Arabic; 295 million*
  • Spanish; 470 million*

Mandarin and Cantonese are often confused when people request translation services for China. It is easy to confuse them as the written form can be different depending on the country you are in. We have produced a simple table explaining the differences between Chinese languages and dialects.

*Based on figures from 2010, first language speakers only

The STAR Team

Source: Bloomberg.com
Updated: 1st of December 2015

What is a contronym?

Book with question marks — contronym
What is a contronym? / Stock photo

The Curious Contronym

Originally, the term was coined by Joseph T. Shipley in 1960. A contronym is a curious phenomenon in language. It is a word with two opposite meanings. The meaning depends on the context.

A contronym is both a homograph and an antonym. A homograph is a word that has the same written form, but has a different meaning. For example, agape means both love and wide open.

An antonym is a word that means the opposite of another like bad and good. Bad is also an example to illustrate what a contronym is because it either means not good or very good. So for the rock stars out there, you’re bad really means you’re good.

Some contronyms come from different meanings between two dialects. In British English, you might say ‘to table a bill’, which means ‘to put it up for debate’ while in American English one might say, ‘to remove it from debate’.

Contronyms are also present in other languages; in French, hôte means either host or guest while in Hawaiian, aloha means both hello and goodbye. The same is said for ciao in Italian.

Synonyms of a contronym are…

  • a contranym,
  • an antagonym
  • an autantonym
  • a Janus word
  • an enantiodrome
  • an self-antonym
  • an antilogy

To explore other examples, we recommend you visit the Oxford English dictionary.

The STAR Team

Corporate Language Management logo

Should of, Would of, Could of

Should of, Would of, Could of — is it of or have?

The use of should of, would of, could of (and even will of) in written English seems to be on the increase.

These errors appear to stem from the fact that the contractions would’ve, should’ve and could’ve sound like would of, should of and could of. The use of the word of in these cases is incorrect according to current English usage.

A quick Google search will show that the use of these incorrect phrases is quite common. Some linguists speculate that these uses will in time become so common that they will be officially accepted as Standard English. However, the vast majority of people currently consider these phrases to be grave errors.

When writing, we recommend taking care to use the correct form.

The STAR Team

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

Writing for your buyers, an analysis of Gobbledygook

An analysis of Gobbledygook

This article has been inspired by David Meerman Scott’s excellent book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR which we recently read, and strongly recommend.

Do the words scalable, world-class, robust, easy to use, flexible and next generation sound familiar to you? Have you ever gotten bored of these redundant and extremely standardized phrases? If so, it’s hardly surprising as these adjectives are likely to be found on most marketing websites nowadays.

David Meerman, with the help of Factivia (from Dow Jones), conducted an analysis on approximately 388,000 news releases in a nine-month period and found that over a fifth of them contained at least one of these words; the winner being ‘next generation’ which had been used 9,895 times!

Meerman used the term gobbledygook for these overused words. According to the OED, gobbledygook (or gobbledegook) is “language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of technical terms”.

How did we get to such poor writing?

To Meerman, it can be summed up in a few words: “marketers don’t understand buyers, the problems buyers face or how their product helps solve these problems. That’s where the gobbledygook happens.”

By not using a closer approach to the buyer, these companies deprive themselves of the opportunity to convince people that their product is the right thing to buy. Also, it doesn’t make any of them stand out from the crowd.

The phrases above denote the vocabulary used by a certain kind of business; but, the lesson is for all types of companies.

Avoid the insular jargon of your company and your industry. Instead, write for your buyers”, Meerman declared.

The STAR Team

One L or two? Test your spelling skills!

Test your spelling skills with this quiz

Writing clear English is always hard but spelling can also be a challenge. Some words are particularly tough to spell. Improve your spelling skills with our quiz.

Here’s a quick test for you.

Choose the right word in each set of parentheses

  1. The central meeting room can __________ more people.
    • [accomodate / accommodate / accommodate]
  2. Success requires __________.
    • [committment / comittment / commitment]
  3. I was __________ when the plate fell on the floor.
    • [embarrased / embarrassed / embarassed]
  4. I’ve __________ so much on business I don’t know which country I’m in.
    • [traveled / travelled]
  5. We are looking for __________ suggestions for designs for our new brochure.
    • [inovative / innovative]

Warning! Answers below

  1. accommodate
  2. commitment
  3. embarrassed
  4. Both spellings are correct; traveled with one L is commonly used in the US, while travelled with two Ls is used in the UK and Ireland.
  5. innovative

The STAR Team

UK: 800,000 Children English not first Language

UK flag, English not first language for 800K children
Union Jack flag / Stock photo

English not first language for 800K in UK

Official reports in the UK show that more than 800,000 schoolchildren do not speak English as their first language.

According to figures published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in May, some 14.4pc of children aged between 5 and 11 years of age speak languages other than English at home. This figure is on the increase: almost 10pc higher than last year.

The STAR Team

Source: The Telegraph (UK)