Some random thoughts about cultural knowledge and English learning

I read a post recently explaining subtle meaning behind a few expressions that people use in their email exchanges, and I’m wondering how many people whose mother tongue is not English are aware of these, or worse, use these on a daily basis without knowing their actual meaning. Here are a few examples:

“I was under the impression”
Translation: I’m furious

“As per my email”
Translation: I’m furious

“With respect”
Translation: I’m furious

“Whilst I appreciate”
Translation: I’m furious

“As I’m sure you’re aware”
Translation: I’m furious

“As previously discussed”
Translation: I’m furious

“You may recall”
Translation: I’m furious

“I’m sorry to bring this up again”
Translation: I’m bloody furious.

“Just to remind you”
Translation: I’m incandescent with rage.

I’m quite sure I used some of these in my email exchanges without realizing they could actually mean I’m furious, and I wonder how the person who read my message interpreted them. There is no way I can find out.

As an English learner for more than twenty years, I still find things that I’m completely unaware of and probably make mistakes in my written and oral English. I was baffled at one time that people completely ghosted me when I thought we were good friends. Granted the relationship was built at work, but we did genuinely enjoy working together and even grabbed lunch a few times together. After I moved on with my career, I thought the friendship would continue but I was wrong. This has happened to me more than once, and I was wondering whether this is a cultural thing, or whether it’s simply because of who I am. I worked briefly both in China and Singapore a long time ago, and colleagues who became friends at that time remain as my friends till this day.

After we moved to Winnipeg, I once heard a saying that says Winnipeggers stop making new friends after kindergarten. It’s probably a joke but does reflect something in this culture I’m now part of. Come to think about it: if I was born and grow up here with everyone I know and everything I’m familiar with close to me, I probably won’t venture out either, especially if it means putting in effort to build new relationships. So I’m very grateful for new friends that I was able to make here in Canada. I received much needed emotional support when time was tough, and for that I want to thank you and tell you how much it means for me.

As Canada Day is just around the corner, I have been thinking about the Indigenous peoples whose land I’m fortunate to live, play and work on. I recently finished reading a book titled “Five Little Indians” and found myself in tears while reading the stories of our main characters. Their experiences in residential schools and their lives afterward break my heart. This is part of Canadian culture many of my folks (loosely translating to ethically Chinese immigrants ) aren’t aware of at all. Through various conversations with them, I’ve encountered prevalent prejudice against Indigenous Peoples. I’d like to believe it’s because of ignorance and unawareness. It probably will take time for this to change and I’m glad schools here do spend significant amount of time and effort to educate our next generation about this part of Canadian history.

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