SMS - Severely Misinterpreted Signs

on Friday, 5 February 2010
Lately, I've got a feeling that I've been sending mixed messages through the Short Messaging System (SMS). I feel that there are a few possibilities:

1. My English Has Deteriorated
Due to the long period of being in a place where there is nearly zero English usage, I've got a feeling that it is possible that my English is also disappearing. Of course, I perpetually utilise the language in other various avenues. This is however nothing in comparison of being surrounded in an environment where I have to use English all the time wherever I go to. How would one become good at something when his/her life is not in-tune with the environment that he/she is in? It's not exactly damaging, but it does have an influence.

2. The Language Semantics Differ
Of course English remains the same language around the country no matter where we go. The sentence structure, grammatical rules, and other linguistic related aspects about the language itself is exactly the same. The cultural and sociolinguistic features however might differ greatly. What might be normally a casual sarcastic remark could be a major insult in a different place. A remark that could have easily been taken as a joke is completely unacceptable in another. I feel that there is a distinctly different sociolinguistic context between Kinabatangan and my hometown of Ipoh. Sarcasm and subtlety in speech aren't that noticeable here. Things are directly interpreted and therefore mean something different completely - something that I'm still adjusting to with sometimes devastating results.

I would like to think that it is not the first reason of language deterioration. I still speak English all the time when I talk to some of the English teachers (some are more eloquent than others), an Indian teacher, my girlfriend (on the phone or when I meet her in rare occasions), and when I'm conversing via internet. There really isn't that much reduction in usage to significantly affect my language proficiency. Besides, I'm now a certified professional of the pedagogical aspects of English. There shouldn't be any signs of deterioration in that part.

The sociolinguistic differences is the one that I find most difficult to adjust to. It's not completely different, yet sometimes I feel that the things that I say are not exactly responded in the right way. I'm not talking about people agreeing or disagreeing with what I say (that has nothing to do with the semantics, it's opinion). Sometimes I feel that messages aren't getting through. I feel also sometimes messages are mistakenly interpreted as anger, doubt, or some other negative connotations when there is no such intention when I read it again. Here's a practical example:

"Please come and see me. I'd really like it if we met personally to talk things out, instead of just talking through the phone. Is it possible that we come up with an agreement face to face? I'm sure you understand, right?"

What can be interpreted from those sentences? Is there any sarcasm or any sign of someone ranting out anger or frustration?

Personally, I feel that things can be interpreted differently depending on the tone of the conversation and what it is leading to. Of course the exact same sentence can mean a whole different meaning if the context that it was said in is of a different tone. I'm aware of that semantic significance.

But what I feel is that my meanings, intentions, and messages are misconstrued a lot of . A LOT of times. I don't think it's coincidence or misunderstandings anymore.

There is a difference in the culture of using the English language.

You just can't say some things. You just can't. No matter how neutral or how innocent your intention was.


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