Why are Americans so forgiving for bad English?

I have timageso admit it: I’ve got a discernible Russian accent. This accent in no way complicates my socializing with multiple American friends and acquaintances. Nor does it prevent me from posting pieces to Pulse (just kidding). And yet, I suspect that on occasions, my accent makes it more difficult for strangers to understand me, especially over the phone.

So, some time ago, I told myself “Enough is enough!” and drove to Barnes & Noble. Standing in their Foreign Languages department, I was trying to find something (a course on CD?) that would help me polish my English pronunciation. And…and found nothing. The only product that came close to what I was looking for was an eight-CD “deluxe package” promising to improve my English “while driving, jogging or working out” (but of course!). But even this package mainly focused on vocabulary, idioms and dialogues (“to familiarize you with U.S. culture, from civic information to body language and social customs”).

After spending a half-hour in the aisle, I was spotted by a B&N salesperson. A nice woman approached me and asked how she could help me. I explained. Visibly puzzled, she briefly checked the content on the shelves and then turned back to me: “Whom are you going to buy it for?” “For myself,” I said. She looked almost shocked. “For you? Why? Your English is so perfect!”

I was so frustrated that my thanks for the compliment may have sounded insincere (and Russian-accented, I guess).

So, I have two questions for the readers of this post. First, can anyone recommend to me a source (a website, a CD course, whatever) I could use to systematically work on my English pronunciation: syllable after syllable, word after word, phrase after phrase?

Second, can you explain to me why the Americans are so forgiving for bad English? Why is there practically no social pressure on people like me to improve our English language skills? Is this the notorious political correctness? Or a solemn realization of the fact that in a country with so many foreigners, maintaining “pure” (American) English is just a utopia?

I’m also curious if some language violations are more “acceptable” to native speakers compared to others. Say, bad pronunciation is still better than incorrect vocabulary, and bad vocabulary is still better than grammatical indiscretions (like wrong tense or verb forms, etc.).

Всех заранее благодарю!

Image credit: http://www.nolifetilmetal.com/badenglish.html

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is the Founder of (WoC)2, an innovation consultancy that helps organizations extract maximum value from the wisdom of crowds by coordinated use of internal and external crowdsourcing.
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1 Response to Why are Americans so forgiving for bad English?

  1. Thank you for sharing your ideas in your blog.
    About the language, we should consider that English is a lingua franca. This language has been used by most people for global communication among 5 other language that recognized by UN. So, you may find people speaking English with Indian, Chinese or Indonesian accent.
    You publish many papers in, of course, the best English.
    My late father born in West Sumatra in 1937. He left his home to Java in 1964. He had spent more of his life in Java and trying very hard to speak good Indonesian language as well as English. He thought he failed. But he successfully published the pocket book of notarial and made a lot of friends.
    Don’t change it.

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