Having taught English to, translated for, and associated with people in sales, marketing, advertising, press and PR for twenty years now, I can’t really claim to understand the intricate mechanics of any of these fields – but I do know when people are making grave errors because they simply do not understand the connotations of the English words, phrases or imagery they have chosen.
While I may have picked up a whole barrel load of valuable knowledge about the many branches of communication and promotion over the past twenty years, I still remain a layman. However, that is also true for the hordes of Austrian and German ‘creatives’ I have conversed with during this period as regards use of the English language.
However good you may think your English is, however much contact you have with English-speaking markets, and however many ‘awesome’ phrases you pick up from colleagues and counterparts – you will never be 100% certain when to use them, how to use them, when to avoid them or how to create an alternative that works just as well.
English is my thing. I’m English, I grew up in England, went to school, to college and to university in England. I coach English, translate into English, have family and friends in the UK, write songs in English and watch hours of English-speaking programmes on YouTube and on the BBC every week. I ‘feel’ when something is good or not! My idioms, idiosyncrasies, mentality and perception of situations are all ingrained; tempered by living in Austria, but still ingrained.
For years now I’ve been the English consultant of choice for customers seeking clarity and certainty. Expertise in English, or any language, is not just about punctuation, the length of sentences, content and tenses. It’s about communication! It’s about meta-communication: all the imagery, meaning and emotion associated with your content. That’s something you can only do in your mother tongue.
So I ask myself, why do ad agencies, managers, creatives, press secretaries and marketing specialists send me their self-written English contributions, after tens or even hundreds of hours have gone into a project, and then ask me if I can just ‘clean it up’ a little?