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Written by Javier Arizpe

April 12, 2017

Don’t let this happen to you for talking colloquial English in the office


Has it ever happened to you that when you talk to a person you are told a word they can’t understand? I has happened to me. There are about 1.5 billion English speakers around the world, can you imagine all the differences and nuances around this language? In the world of English translation, we need to deeply know our audience and language to recognize between linguistic differences such as file (paper object) and file (steel tool) or aid and aide; however, This article will not be about translationissues, but about the importance of using a neutral English at professional level.


The problem of colloquial English

While teaching an English class few years ago, a student (about 14 years Old) told Me:--Pick someone else, I’m salty today!”after I asked him a question. By his tone of voice, I thought he was fooling around but he wanted to express something deeper. Although class continued in a normal way for all students, I was trying to figure out what “salty” meant and why he wouldn’t participate any longer. I even wondered if I had to apologize to him for something. By the end of the day, I decided to ask other student what did “salty” meant and this was her reply:

He sorta meant he was in a grumpy mood today!

Apparently, kids nowadays become salty instead of grumpy and there are trolls instead of jerks. This time, the confusion did not escalate to a serious problem but, Can you imagine how much damage could using such language cause to our professional life? Think about it.

Another time, some time ago, an English speaking foreigner came to visit us. When he first heard the word “Bae”, someone vaguely told him it was a friendly word to use to refer to others. Not long after that this person had a job interview and he decided to greet his interviewer with “Good morning Bae”. Of course, he did not get the job. What was the problem? No one explained to him it’s a word to be used to the person you love. Somehow his interviewer though he was desperate, unstable, or something else. Nowadays, this word is more commonly used and given a misunderstanding maybe it could be cleared out after a brief apology. But using such informal language at work may be a hazard.


What can you do to avoid such confusions?

It’s true we cannot change the trends of language but we can make adjustments to the vocabulary we use. It is important to keep the colloquial expressions at a minimum level.

For instance, UK people working in America can avoid the use of words like “Geezer”. It may mean something similiar to “dude” to you, but if you said that to an elderly person in the US (your boss, for instance), he would definitely feel offended. If you choose to use a “neutral” term instead, such as “colleague” or even “man”, anyone, foreigner or not, can understand you. This is especially important if your boss or your client comes from a different country.

Also, do not leave aside the cultural references that may obscure the message. If you tell an office colleguage something like “I got chirped by John this morning”, but he comes from a different generation than you, he will never understand the message.

“Chirp” is a word from the Millennials generation. It basically describes what you’re doing when you insult or “diss” someone.

Every dialect has its own flavor and is special in its own way, every word we use has a special meaning. However, to help the global communication among us, speakers of this beautiful language, it is important to neutralize our vocabulary to the greatest extent possible in some situations to avoid confusion, misunderstandings, and to save you long explanations or apologies.

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