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A world of English at Macmillan Dictionary

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 © GOODSHOOTOver the last few months Macmillan Dictionary Blog has been publishing videos and posts in a series called Real World English. The series looks at how certain varieties of English differ in vocabulary and pragmatics. For example, the meaning of school or holiday can depend on what dialect of English the speaker is using, which generally depends on where they’re from.

One of the motifs of the Real World English series is that these varieties of English have different standards and conventions. None of them are necessarily more correct than any others, but what’s normal and obvious in one dialect may be obscure or ambiguous in another. Being aware of how various Englishes diverge in usage can help us improve our understanding of, and communication with, people who speak another variety. This is an increasingly important skill in work and social situations, now that telecommunications and internet technology have made the world smaller. We often communicate with people on several different continents every day, especially if we use social media.

UK English and US English tend to dominate discussions of English dialects, because of their historical and continuing influence on the English language globally. It’s why they feature prominently in the Real World English series (whose video scripts I drafted). But English is broader and more diverse than this binary suggests, with English-speaking regions around the world generating their own vocabularies and norms of usage which, though they overlap heavily with US or UK English, enrich it with local features – not just words but grammatical peculiarities.

Macmillan Dictionary Blog looked at several world Englishes in its in International English series some years ago, with posts and other resources on Brazilian English, Canadian English, Indian English, Russian English, Scottish English, South African English, Australian English, and others. You can still find them all linked on the blog’s front page – just click on the What’s your English? 2010 link on the right hand side. I also write about Irish English on my blog Sentence First.

The Macmillan Dictionary itself has been enriched by these global varieties. A recent major update added hundreds of new entries, more than doubling the number of South African English words. It also added dozens of terms from Philippine English, such as barkada, balikbayan, Mabuhay, and pasalubong. In his report on the update, editor-in-chief Michael Rundell invited further submissions to the crowd-sourced Open Dictionary. So if you speak a regional variety of English and notice a local word missing from our dictionary, do let us know.

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Stan Carey

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