Extensive Reader

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SPOKEN ENGLISH AND BROKEN ENGLISH

George Bernard Shaw is perhaps one of the most prolific writers of the modern era. Though he is best known as a playwright, Shaw was also a respected critic, journalist, novelist, and essayist. A noted social reformer, Shaw wrote plays which dramatized social commentaries, and in 1925 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

“The gramophone will one day be used for language teaching”, prophesied H.G.Wells.

Shaw made a special recording on ‘Spoken English and Broken English’ for Linguaphone Institute. The English language – the way it is written and spoken and the way it should be written and spoken – was a favourite theme of Shaw.

The first thing Shaw likes to impress is that
“There is no such thing as ideally correct English. No two British subjects speak exactly alike”

Shaw was a member of a committee established by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for correcting the pronunciation of the employees, so that they should be a model of correct speech for the British Islands.

The Chairman of the committee was the Poet Laureate, who was a specialist in pronunciation. The other member was Sir Robertson, an actor, famous for the beauty of his speech. Shaw was selected for the committee because he used to superintend the rehearsals of his plays. Yet its members did not agree to the pronunciation of some of the simplest and commonest words in any language, ‘yes’ and ‘no’. No two members of the committee pronounced them exactly alike. Though they all spoke differently, they all spoke presentably.

Shaw presents that no two native speakers of English speak it alike. He confesses that he himself does not speak the same way as a native speaker does.

Shaw goes on to explain the difference in speech, when he addresses an audience and when he speaks to his wife at home. As a public speaker, he has to take care that every word, he says, is heard clearly at the end of large halls. But when he speaks to his wife at a breakfast, he takes so little pains to speak.

“We all have company manners and home manners”
For studying languages, in enthusiasm, if one has to call on a strange family to hear how a family speaks to one another when there is nobody else listening to them, and how they speak in a stranger’s presence, he will be surprised. Home manners and company manners are always different, and the difference is greater in speech than in anything else.

Shaw now turns his attention towards his foreign listeners. If a non native speaker learns English when he intends to travel in England, he should not try to speak English perfectly. If he does, no one will understand him. There is no such thing as correct English; there is only presentable English, which is called ‘Good English’.

“In London nine hundred and ninety nine out of every thousand people not only speak bad English but speak even that very badly”

Even if they do not speak English well, they can understand it when it is well spoken. But when the speaker is a foreigner, it is difficult to understand. A non native speaker does not give significance to stress and intonation, as a native speaker does.

Shaw emphasizes a non native speaker, when he travels, that he should speak with a strong foreign accent and speak broken English: “that is, English, without any grammar”. Then every native speaker will try to understand and be ready to help him. He does not expect a foreigner to be polite and use elaborate grammatical phrases.

Shaw cites an example to explain his statements.

If a foreigner asks a native speaker of English, “Will you have the goodness, sir, to direct me to the railway terminus at Charing Cross”, the latter will not understand. Instead the foreigner has to shout “Please! Charing Cross! Which way!” Half a dozen people will be at his help.

Shaw concludes the speech with some suggestions for a non native speaker of English. 1. Even in private conversations...
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