Who owns English?

Last night before the conference banquet here in Seoul we were shown a film advertising Hanyang University. I wrote down three examples of curious English.

(1) The University’s goal: “Developing leaders with global characteristics”
(2) Its attitude to the future: “Fearless of change!”
(3) Its highest aim: “Practicing love”.

None of these phrases would have appeared if the script had been written by an Oxford professor. But this is Asia’s century. Let’s look more closely.

#1, I think, is just a random offbeat choice of words, good for a chuckle.

#2 requires more analysis. I’d have chosen a less martial expression like “embracing change” or “embracing the future”. But that would have been limper than “fearless of change!” with its somehow Asian accent, and who am I to say they’ve made the wrong choice? To the billion who’ve learned English as a second language, “fearless of change!” may speak better than anything I’d have cooked up.

And what about #3, “Practicing love”? In my ears this comes across as just plain kooky. But who am I to say how it may sound to others less finely Anglotrained, whether it may communicate, in Global English, something genuine?

[10 August 2014]

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