The language 'barrier'

From my website statistics I am aware that a lot of people from a lot of different countries read this blog. Some of the recent 'controversial' comments I have received have been posted by people for whom English is not their first language. It's been obvious that this has led, on occasions, to a complete misunderstanding of what I was saying. While this doesn't excuse the tone of some of the comments I've received, it might help explain them.

I am impressed by how many people across the globe are fluent in more than one language. As a nation the British are pretty poor at this and I myself can only claim a basic 'hotel french' as the sum total of my non-english linguistic skills. But even a fluent English speaker from another country may not be aware of some of the cultural and national nuances of grammar, phraseology and reference. There are enough differences between UK and US English and it's not just about the different spellings and meaning of words. I'm reminded of a story I heard a few years ago. An Australian apparently went into a UK stationary shop and said to the assistants in a loud voice so that all the shop could hear 'I need a lot of Durex and it's got to cover something really big' He was somewhat surprised by the shocked reaction and the fact that he was ushered quickly from the shop and directed to the nearest chemist. In Australia Durex is a brand of adhesive tape, in the UK it's the best known brand of condom!!

I've always been aware of this language 'barrier' ever since I discovered that what I was writing was being read across the world. Below is the list of countries people visited this blog from yesterday. Source - my Google stats. 

So, what to do about this? It is the case, as I mentioned above, that I often get some pretty unpleasant comments from people who have misunderstood what I have written, skimmed it in a cursory way or just seen quotes on other sites (often I've discovered these are actually misquotes) and reacted accordingly. It's no wonder that they use the best translators in the world at the United Nations, otherwise we might have all been blown to hell years ago. As I indicated, this doesn't excuse some of what gets posted, but I am aware that how I write may have something to do with this. However, since I can't write this blog in any other way (I've tried - with a singular lack of success) and I don't really want to, since the whole point of it is that it's personal and a diary of what and where I shoot and what I think about that and the gear I use, there probably isn't a way round it and it may well keep happening.

I've written occasionally about the everyman, lowest common denominator, 'tabloid' style of some other bloggers and photographic internet writers, but it has occurred to me that this might well be a benefit in terms of 'global understanding'

There is also the somewhat tricky matter of sense of humour and how that translates. Regular long-term readers will know that firstly my primary intention and purpose is that this blog should be entertaining. And secondly that much of is written tongue in cheek. And no, I have no idea whether that phrase translates or not. Humour is very cultural and often doesn't move well across language and national borders. Again, since I have no intention (or the ability) to write my articles in any other way, it can (and probably will) be the cause of future problems.

I do, when I get a particularly vitriolic comment (If I actually read it), check on who has posted it and many times I have discovered that it comes from somewhere English (UK English) is not the primary language. These days with internet pseudonyms the name itself often gives no clue as to origin. It could be argued that if you don't fully understand what you are reading, then maybe people should be more circumspect about what they write. But then this is the internet, where 'Let it all hang out*' seems to be the order of the day.

(* 'Let it all hang out' is a phrase that originates from the late sixties and the hippie movement that indicates behaviour that is unrestricted by the normal personal and social inhibitions of 'straight' society. In this context I was using it in a somewhat ironic way. See the problem?)

Now I really don't have any answer to this, but I thought I would take this opportunity to explain the 'philosophy' behind what and how I write for new(ish) readers. I will try to do it in as simple a way as possible so it does stand some chance of translating in way that might avoid misunderstanding. 

  • This blog is primarily intended to entertain.
  • This blog is my personal account of how I work as a professional photographer.
  • This is not a site that will recommend best buy and value for money products.
  • This is not a review site in the conventional sense.
  • All opinions expressed are personal.
  • There is no intention to get people to use one companies product in preference to another.
  • It is a daily account of what I do and think.
  • I do sometimes change my mind.
  • I value my ability to change my mind.
  • Some of what I write isn't intended to be serious.
  • Some of what I write is intended to be serious.
  • I spend a lot of time making sure that my words represent exactly what I'm thinking in as accurate a way as possible - though I may not always succeed.
  • It will often need the whole post to be read to understand the point I'm making.
  • I regard the gear I use as far less important than the pictures I create with it.
  • I often write what I think without any regard for the consequences.
  • Sometimes that leads to problems and misunderstandings.
  • I am aware that my sense of humour may not be to everybody's taste.
  • I am passionate about photography - maybe more than is good for me.
  • My passion and enthusiasm may lead me to be less than objective.
  • I have no intention of changing that.
  • My intention at all times is be totally honest under all circumstances.
  • The Soundimageplus Blog is what it is - If you don't like what or how I write or disagree with me there are plenty of other people who write about photography on the internet you might like better. 
  • This is not a forum nor will it ever be.
  • (I use brackets far too much)