What’s happening to English?

All languages change. The English of 500 hundred years ago is very hard for us to understand. Just ask any high school student who is being forced to struggle through the works of Shakespeare! I am certain that the same is true of Japanese. But, significant change can happen over a much smaller time-frame, perhaps only a few years. While this makes communication interesting, it can be a challenge for students (and teachers!).

So, why does language change? There are various reasons.
First, speaking is a mentally and physically complex task. Unsurprisingly, people try to make things simpler, so unnecessary sounds or words tend to disappear over time. If enough people become “lazy” like this the whole language may change. For example, in England, February is often pronounced ‘Febry’.

Second, the world changes. Google didn’t exist twenty years ago, then it was just be the name of an Internet search engine. Now, it’s a verb. “If you don’t know the answer, just google it.” And a smart phone is pretty smart for a teenager!

Third, the world is getting smaller, and other languages are having more influence. We see this often here in Japan with more and more borrowed words being used in the masu medeia. This can help Japanese learners of English because words like anime, manga, sushi, and ramen have become widespread in English.

Finally, some words and expressions get worn out and become ‘uncool’. Young people
who want to freshen things up and separate themselves from their boring, old parents often create new expressions or new ways of using old ones. Recently, a Wordwise teacher, Abby, visited her home in Australia. According to her, the type of speech had changed and now people were cutting off the ends of many of the words to make things shorter and faster. I thought it sounded “Tots ridic cray cray!”(totally ridiculously crazy!)

What does this mean for students? Don’t panic. While change is happening, your English ability will change, too. The most important thing is to be a flexible learner. In other words, to be open to new words and new ways of saying things and you’ll be able to keep up with the changes.






最後に、使われ過ぎた単語や表現は「かっこよくない」と淘汰されていきます。いつも最新な情報に敏感な若者は、新しい表現や、古いものを使って新しい表現を生み出します。最近はワードワイズ講師のアビーが、オーストラリアに帰国した際、話し方が少し変わってきていると感じたようです。言葉の語尾を切り落とし、短く、早くしてしまうのです。“Tots ridic cray cray!”と聞こえた言葉は、実際は”Totally ridiculously crazy!”と言っていたのです。