The great things about Blaugust Festival of Blogging is that it’s a truly international event. For me that a big part of its appeal. Because although English may well be the universal language of all participants, it is not necessarily their first language. Hence a great deal of a writer’s native culture can bleed though into their posts. Rather than advocating a homogeneous approach to writing in which an international standard is enforced, I much prefer people writing as it naturally occurs to them, in the same way I enjoy and regional accents. In the internet age, it’s easy to think that there exists a universal, international pop culture. At a very simple level that may be true. Gaming is a major pastime all over the world. But look beyond the obvious and you’ll find that all countries have their own cultural foibles and idiosyncrasies. And that is one of the reasons I love to read other people’s blogs because I get to share in these.
Back in the days when Contains Moderate Peril was relatively successful and had a wee bit of a following, it became very apparent through analysing the stats that the readership was international. As soon as that fact came to light, I decided to consider this when writing and hopefully have done so ever since. I tend to write in an informal British manner, similar to how I speak. I use a lot of phrases, colloquialisms and slang, as well as frequently making pop culture references. Why? Because this how I express myself. But I try to explain things along the way because not everything I write will be immediately accessible to international readers. So I put quotation marks around certain phrases and on occasions include links that explains them. I endeavour to do my best to clarify the foibles of UK society, its cultural habits and mindsets. Because pop culture is possibly the United States greatest export and had found its way on to most nations TV, the realities of daily life in America is far from impenetrable. I cannot say the same about German, Dutch, Kenyan or Bangladeshi culture.
I admire anyone who has language skills. It is something we do very poorly in the UK. Less than a third of the nation is bilingual. I suppose due to English being a global language there is a sense of hubris that we shouldn’t even try. My French is very bad and my German negligible. Oddly the only language I ever seemed to get on with other than English was Latin but that’s a separate blog post. Anyone who not only learns English, which is notoriously awkward with its plethora of contradictory rules but also writes it, has achieved linguistically far more than me. I had the pleasure of working with a German engineer back in 1998 called Hendrich. He spoke textbook English but very quickly learned that it didn’t really equip him for day-to-day spoken English. He wanted to know slang and those curious turn of phrases that all countries develop. I confused him once, when we were working late and I said it was time to “knock it on the head”, which means to stop what you’re doing. “Whose head shall we knock?” he replied. Needless to say he found a means to learn informal English. He started supporting the local football team and by interacting with others quickly expanded his vocabulary.
So my advice to new bloggers who are starting out, is always keep in mind that although English may be a common language, the subtleties of your daily life are not. Don’t drive the character from your prose by slavishly writing in Standard International English (or American English). Please reference aspects of your countries culture both big and small and explain them where necessary. It brings so much more to your blog posts. In an age of growing fear regarding “difference”, we can learn a great deal about each other by reading each other’s writing. Yes, there are minor differences such as what side of the road you drive, measurement, the age at which you can do things such as vote or drink. But our overriding similarities also become abundantly clear. Also, if there’s something you’ve read that you don’t understand and you’d like an explanation then definitely ask. I will happily answer such questions about my writing, if you want clarification regarding what is a “chugger”, a “wee stooshie” or what you have to do to get totally “Leo Sayered”.