It’s in my nature to stop and ask someone where they’re from if I hear an unusual accent. I know it’s a bit weird, but I just can’t help myself. Most of the time the person is happy to talk about their country and what they’re doing in England – though lately I’ve noticed that Greek nationals are becoming more and more reticent – and we generally go on to have a brief chat about cultural icons, football or music, depending on what common ground we may share. Nobody’s told me to get lost yet, so I like to think I’m doing my bit for Anglo-global relations …
With this in mind, I was more than happy when I was contacted by Andris Svarcs for some help. Andris is a web-designer and front-end specialist hailing from Latvia but working from offices in Kingston-upon-Thames. Bespoke Web is his company and he
was aware that the English on the website could be improved. While fairly fluent when speaking the language, like most foreigners his confidence waned when faced with the written word, mainly due to the myriad irregularities that frequently crop up but that anyone born here wouldn’t even notice.
The most important thing for Andris was that it read naturally and wasn’t too formal: in other words, he didn’t want it to sound like he’d used anyone else’s help. The key element with any task like this is the use of “plain English”, but one thing I always try to do with anyone whose first tongue is not English is to introduce some phrases that “sound natural”, ie a few colloquialisms that make the copy seem more organic. What I mean by that is, if I’m having a conversation with Andris and he says something that’s a little unusual or slightly awkward though grammatically correct, I’ll suggest an alternative way of saying it or explain that in this situation, most English people would say “this” instead …
In this way, I’m hopefully getting across some of the finer points of the language as well as making them sound more “English” at the same time.
The way these assignments tend to work is that the client will have a pretty solid idea of what they want to say – and in many cases a full page will already be written – so my task will be to polish it up, adding bits here and removing bits there, till it reads more naturally.
Sometimes, the jobs can be really quick and easy, while others involve almost a complete re-write.