Language globalization brings it home


Ketchup. Hummus. Bazar.

These words are second nature to Canadians, but they are not English. Adopting words from other languages and applying them to our discourse has been going on for centuries.

When Great Britain was establishing colonies all over the world and massive trading started, the era of language globalization started.

“Now with our world becoming smaller and more globalized, people are more exposed to the different cultures, foods, etc.,” said Stephanie Samboo, English coordinator, faculty of humanities and social science of Sheridan College.

“For example, I use the word, “hummus’ a lot because I like to eat it. This is a dish originated from Syria. So, food names are one category in which English borrows words. Another example is “ketchup” which originated in China.”

Many animals that were non-existent in Europe and North America have been adopted from Asia and Africa with their names.

“Giraffe”, “gazelle” come from the Middle East as these animals originated from there and Bengal tiger came from India because the animal especially can be seen in the Bengal province and Bangladesh,” said Samboo.

“English has become a global language and thus, I think it belongs to everyone, not only the British or Americans. We now have Hindi English, Spanglish (Spanish English), (Singlish) Singapore English, etc. These are varieties of English, which have become meshed with the local languages in those countries”

When we adopt words from other languages, we tend to forget other widely spoken words.

“Compare the English language previously and now and you will see that there are many words we do not use nowadays which were used before or many words have changed in their meanings over time such as the word ‘issue.’ It now means a problem. Before, it meant an important subject or topic (not a problem),” said Samboo via email.

We need to remember that English is a language with a sprawling vocabulary, and given its vast international currency and wide use, a startling array of idioms, dialects, and variations of all kinds are born. It’s made up of all sorts of bits and pieces from other languages.

“Sometimes these histories get a little obscure and uncertain. “Sandal,” for example, is from the Latin “sandalium,” but the Latin term has its roots in a Greek word, and the Greeks may have taken that word from another language, probably an Asiatic one with connections to Persian,” said Tim Conley, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Brock University.

“Many times the term doesn’t change at all: English just adopts it and leaves it in the form that it found it. Again, there’s no end of examples: samurai, maître d’, ziggurat, ravioli, shmuck, angst, yoga, bazar, karma, pundit.”

Many international students take advantage of English tutors in the learning centre at Sheridan College and sometimes seeing certain words in the English vocabulary amazes them.

“I have a French background and I know many words comes from French, so I don’t get surprised when any international student says this is also a word in my language too,’ ” said Colette Henry, an English tutor at Sheridan College.

“Social media has also made a big effect on English and there are many examples of self-made English word as well like Facebooking.”


English tutors at Trafalgar; Collete, Alan and Patrick

English tutors at Trafalgar; Collete, Alan and Patrick