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How To Improve Your Grammar And

Punctuation
Individual words too can have relatively different meanings in different cultures
depending upon expectations, values and experience of the two persons, the speaker and the
listener. For example a word such as far when applied to distance, may convey something
totally different to a city dweller in North America who practically never walks anywhere,
compared with someone who lives on the land in the middle of an African country. imilarly
words such as !ig or large when related to si"e of an o!#ect or a contract.
In the various languages, punctuation marks and other sym!ols such as the full stop $.%, the
comma $,% the colon $&%, the semicolon $'%, the (uestion mark $)%, the (uotation mark $% and
many others are not necessarily written in the same way, nor positioned in the same manner
within text. *any different kinds of diacritical signs and marks are used, and some specialist
signs and ligatures, such as the ampersand $+% or the at sign $,% may not !e understood.
All languages using romanised script are written from left to right on a hori"ontal line, while
many others including Ara!ic script and languages in Asia and outh -ast Asia are written
from right to left. .hinese characters, pictographs or ideograms are printed from top to
!ottom in vertical columns shifting from right to left, !ut sometimes also from left to right
in hori"ontal lines. /here is a saying in diplomatic circles, that when a diplomat says yes, he
means may!e' if he says may!e he means no' and if he says no, he is no diplomat. It is to
oversimplify matters to state that
in 0estern -uropean countries and in North America the word yes means the affirmative
and no the negative, in many other countries and cultures even these two words are often
the cause of serious misunderstandings. In France people will often say no, when they
actually mean 1 may!e, !ut try and convince me. In most -uropean languages the response
to a (uestion is yes or no according to whether the answer is positive or negative, as in
the following examples&
2uestion Answer to !e conveyed Answer
3. Is your name 4eter) $*y name is 4eter% 5es
6. Is your name 4eter) $*y name is not 4eter% No
7. Isnt your name 4eter) $*y name is 4eter% 5es
8. Isnt your name 4eter) $*y name is not 4eter% No
9ut in many African and other languages the choice of yes or no is made in the light of
whether the (uestion and answer are !oth negative, when the answer is yes, !ut if they are
not, it will !e,no. /he answers to the four (uestions a!ove are therefore&
3. Affirmative (uestion : affirmative answer ; 5es
6. Affirmative (uestion : negative answer ; No
7. Negative (uestion : affirmative answer ; No
8. Negative (uestion : negative answer ; 5es
A typical example could !e the reply to a negative (uestion, such as 5ou have no
underground railway in this town) /he reply in
many African countries might well !e& 5es, we have none. <uring conversations,
discussions and even negotiations with
people who live in Asian countries one will notice that they seldom say no. /his is not,
!ecause there may not !e an e(uivalent
word in their language !ut !ecause they wish to save face or em!arrassment for !oth parties.
Instead they may use euphemism
or vague, neutral or indirect words and phrases rather than a direct or unforgiving 1 no.
It should also !e noted that in many cultures people will tell you what they think you would
want and like to hear, even !y the way of giving you directions. /hey may use words such
as not far, when the destination may well !e a long way away. =ften the answer to a
language pro!lem is the need to read !etween the lines. /his indicates that one has to
analyse what has not !een said rather than what has !een said.
In some languages such as >erman and most of the candinavian languages the information
conveyed !y the language is explicit and words have specific meaning, while in others such
as Ara!ic and ?apanese it is not necessarily so. /here are sometimes hidden or su!tle
meanings in words and expressions which are not o!vious to foreigners even if they have a
good knowledge of a language. /here is the story of a tired !usinessman telephoning the
reception desk in a hotel in a country in the *iddle -ast re(uesting an extra pillow, and to
his surprise immediately !eing sent up a girl. If he made a similar re(uest in a 9ritish hotel
he might well !e asked, whether he would like the pillow to !e feather or foam filled.
/here are !asically two types of languages. /here are the dead languages such as Ancient
>reek, @atin and anskrit which are learned for historical or religious reasons without !eing
part of everyday linguist exchange and living languages currently in use worldwide.
9ecause languages in current use are alive, they are the method of conveying new ideas,
innovations and concepts. /here is therefore a constant stream of new words which enter
languages, as well as changes in the interpretation of existing words. /his too can cause of
misunderstandings, even when people talk the same language and even the use of identical
words could mean different things.
.hanges take place more rapidly in the context of the spoken language than when it is
written. /he compilers of the =xford -nglish <ictionary, for example, state that around
3,AAA new words, worth recording, are added to the -nglish language every year. ign
language is a central part of the deaf culture. /here is no universal sign language and every
country, with a few exceptions, has its own form of sign language, for example&
A@ 1 American ign @anguage
@F 1 @angue des ignes Francaise
<> 1 >erman ign @anguage
9@ 1 9ritish ign @anguage
About the Author
Individual words too can have relatively different meanings in different cultures depending
upon expectations, values and experiences.