Making Friends Across the Globe ~ International English #1

One day, a lady from the western side of America wrote on a group I belonged to, "I can't get to the shops today because my husband took my car to the shop."

I wondered how her husband could sell her car when she obviously needed it, so I asked, "Are you going to get another one?"

Back came the response, "No. Why would I? There's nothing wrong with this one."

"Then why are you selling it?" I asked, confused.

Time for a lesson in International English. Americans send their cars to the "shop" when they need a service. South Africans send their cars to the shop when they want to sell them.

In South Africa I see many British and American magazines that were unavailable a few years ago. And of course, thanks to the Internet, our words are globally available the instant they appear on the Web. As writers, we are now communicating with people across the world in a way we never could before. This is wonderful--but it's also full of pitfalls for the unwary writer.

So today I thought we'd start a monthly series of articles that will help us improve our global communication, no matter where we live. 

POINT #1: Make friends in other countries.

Join writers' groups on the Internet. The web is an excellent place to interact with writers from other countries. It will not only help improve your writing, it can increase your understanding of different cultures. 
  • Don't be slow to ask questions. "Do you use that expression in your country?" Or, "I don't understand what you mean. We don't use that word." 
  • Look out for those who live in other countries, and learn from them. This will not only help you write for the global market, it will broaden your knowledge and understanding of the world. 
Join a group that follows your hobby or interest.  My first experience of an Internet group was when I joined a Christian Rubber Stamping Group, a large group of mainly ladies, who all loved rubber stamping. We shared ideas, compared notes, and sent cards to one another. In the process, I got to know a number of Americans, a couple of Australians, and one lady in England. Many of these are still my friends today, even though I no longer do stamping.  

When I went to America for a writers' conference, I stayed in four different homes of people with whom I'd become friendly through my stamping group.
  • I learned to eat doughnuts for breakfast.
  • I taught an American friend how tasty toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches were; a common light meal in South Africa.
Participate in Social Media. Read posts and blogs by people from other countries. See how they do things and how they express themselves. Leave comments making sure it's clear you live in another country. I enjoy asking questions on my Facebook Author page to encourage participation. A few weeks ago I asked the question, Do you buy potatoes in small quantities or as a pocket? I was taken aback when the only person who knew what I was talking about was a fellow South African. "What's a pocket of potatoes?" was the theme of the responses.

When I did a search of the Internet to find an image to post, I couldn't find one! I promised to take a photograph and post it. Which is a point . . . 

Facebook, Twitter, or another form of social media are ideal ways to make friends across the globe.
  • We can get to know people in other lands, then go "off site" to discuss an issue that perhaps we need to know about for our writing project. I have made many friends through social media where I can ask their advice and be sure they understand my terminology. 
  • We can build an awareness of other cultures. We may come to see them as people with the same emotions, concerns, and interests as us. It's not that the people are different. It's their cultures, their challenges, and their outlook which are often different. And if we're going to write for them, surely we need to know these things.   
I have developed an on-line relationship with a young woman who is years younger than me, who belongs to a culture so remote from mine that she'd probably be persecuted if our "friendship" was discovered. She simply began to follow my Facebook page, and then wrote to me privately about something she wanted advice on. 

Over the years, I have learned things about her religion and way of life that totally horrify me. Yet she is a young woman in need of love and understanding, and for some reason she has taken a liking to me. I have come to realize some of the deep needs and issues facing some of the young women who live in far-off foreign lands. I can ask her questions if I need to. I can find out how her family would react in various situations. What a wealth of information is available to us, thanks to Social Media.

Today, we've looked at ways of getting to know people across the globe who live in different countries. Next month we'll take a look at some of those countries and how this can and should influence our writing. 

OVER TO YOU: Do you interact with people from other countries? Is there any part of this topic that you would especially like us to look at? Leave a comment below.

FURTHER READING: What in the World Do You Mean? Do you know what a Dolly Varden is? It all depends on the country you live in! It could be anything from a fish to a hat to a cake to a piece of furniture!

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer has created a multitude of friends and contacts across the world.

Please visit Shirley through, where she encourages writers, or at, where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook


Jojo said...

I love "meeting" and getting to know others in other countries. In fact I've been following a blog that focuses on one specific village in France and I'm hoping to go meet the blogger and see the village for myself next month! I love how the internet, and more specifically blogs, has connected us to friends around the world.

Karen Cioffi said...

Shirley, that's the great thing about the internet, you meet people from all over. Aside from knowing people worldwide from groups I'm in, I have clients around the world.

What's great about this as a writer is it broadens our awareness of different cultures and hopefully this makes its way into our writing.

Kathleen Moulton said...

Shirley, I am looking forward to the rest of your articles on this subject. I've learned some good points today. Thank-you.

Shirley Corder said...

Wow that sounds great, Jojo. When I went to my first Christian Writers Conference I was gone from home for five weeks. During that time I didn't meet one person I knew apart from the web. Enjoy your time in France!

Shirley Corder said...

Yes Karen, I think that's why it's important that we understand each others' cultures and the way we speak English. Otherwise as writers it's a minefield!

Shirley Corder said...

Great Kathleen, I'm glad you benefited from this article. I've been learning for years and even today I received a critique which picked up several words I thought were okay in America and they're not. When you're writing for an American market (Chicken Soup in this case) it is a challenge.

Unknown said...

I live in London, a very international city. It's great to try to learn about and understand each other here. Rather than feeling frustrated and at odds, you feel a part of a global community.

Shirley Corder said...

You're right Sara. Of course you and I are mainly on the same side as we both speak/write British English, but we still have our differences. I always enjoy writing for British markets as I don't have as many pitfalls ahead of me!

Lisa Harris said...

A great post, Shirl! I remember when I first moved to South Africa from the US how much I struggled getting used to so many new English words and phrases. I was so grateful to new friends who helped with things like our kids' school supplies list and other important things. Now when I go back to the US, I have to chuckle when people look at me funny when I use a South African word or phrase. Overall, though, I've loved the opportunities to get to know new friends in from other cultures!

Ann Goodfellow said...

i have made friends with folk from all over the world - and laughed at quite a few of the expressions.FB has opened up my eyes to all sorts of comments UK, USA, NZ, Aus, Ireland, PHilippines, Liberia etc. Keep the posts coming folks - it keeps us alive and loving the interaction!

LeAnne Hardy said...

I'm with you, Lisa. I'm often unaware in what culture I picked up an expression.

LeAnne Hardy said...

Agreed, Ann. Do you ever think what heaven will be like with people from every tongue and nation? Won't it be fun?

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Shirl, you are one of my fave "international authors"--meaning not from the US. I love this. Please do more! You may also be interested in my husband's book. He, too, is working toward international awareness and cooperation and it even has chapters on accent reduction and simplified English grammar. It is "What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z" at and is available on Amazon's worldwide sites. You can tell I'm passionate about it, too. It is even being used by Fulbright scholars attending top USA colleges.

Shirley Corder said...

Yes Lisa and LeAnne, I'm with you. Because I write for both the UK and the US markets I find myself continually having to say to either an American friend or a S.African friend, "Is this the correct word?" It makes for some fun situations too as I hope to bring out in #3 of the series.

Shirley Corder said...

Agreed Ann. It certainly prevents us becoming complacent as writers!

Shirley Corder said...

LeAnne, what a fun thought! I guess the Lord will have to give us all the gift of interpretation on an ongoing basis or we'll never be able to communicate. :-)

Shirley Corder said...

Thanks Carolyn, that's good to know, and I have planned at least 3 in this series. I'll see where the New Year takes me. Please congratulate your husband on his book. If I ever come back to America I will need to try and get a copy!

KarenKTeachCamb said...

This is also one of the joys and challenges of missionary/expat life. Since living in Cambodia I have made friends from many different places. I've also had some of those same friends scatter around the globe. Yes, my Aussie phrases sometimes cause much confusion. :)

Shirley Corder said...

LOL! Thanks Karen. Yes, my daughter and family are missionaries. They've lived in Venezuela, Kazakhstan and currently in Benin. They have some unusual expressions at times!

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