Lost in Translation

Or, Cross-cultural communication. What the English say vs. what foreigners hear.

The concept of saying the opposite of what you mean may seem both confusing and unnecessary to many people.

WHAT THE BRITISH SAY WHAT THE BRITISH MEAN WHAT FOREIGNERS UNDERSTAND
I hear what you say I disagree and do not want to discuss it further He accepts my point of view
With the greatest respect You are an idiot He is listening to me
That’s not bad That’s good That’s poor
That is a very brave proposal You are insane He thinks I have courage
Quite good A bit disappointing Quite good
I would suggest Do it or be prepared to justify yourself Think about the idea, but do what you like
Oh, incidentally/ by the way The primary purpose of our discussion is That is not very important
I was a bit disappointed that I am annoyed that It doesn’t really matter
Very interesting That is clearly nonsense They are impressed
I’ll bear it in mind I’ve forgotten it already They will probably do it
I’m sure it’s my fault It’s your fault Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner It’s not an invitation, I’m just being polite I will get an invitation soon
I almost agree I don’t agree at all He’s not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments Please rewrite completely He has found a few typos
Could we consider some other options I don’t like your idea They have not yet decided
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“ough” Pronunciation

The “ough” letter sequence has the most random pronunciation. It can be pronounced six different ways in North America, and over ten ways in British English.

We’re going to keep it simple for now, and just look at the six North American pronunciations.

ʌf tough, rough, enough     Stuff, suffer
ɒf cough, trough    Off, offer
aʊ  bough, plough, draught    How, flower
oʊ  dough, though, thorough    Toe, know
ɒ thought, bought, taught    Not, saw.  Usually used before /t/, except in drought /draʊt/
through    Too, knew