Archive for November, 2007

Mind the gap

26/11/2007

Interesting to see that the Tube’s announcer has been sacked.
I wonder who’ll replace her? Give the recent trend, as observed at Dubai and Amsterdam airports recently, I hope it won’t be someone with an estuary English accent (or common accent, depending on your point of view). Yawr flaiit is leavin nah from gate fowrteen.
Being a bit conservative on these matters, I prefer a standard for these kinds of things and it’s
Received Pronunciation, as learnt by millions of non-native English speakers. A Geordie, Essex or Mancunian accent just isn’t right – give us Posh English, as understood by everyone and able to be laughed at by Brits without fear of upsetting any one community.
Most people learn English hearing Received Pronunciation – a decent standard from which to branch out and learn other regional variations. Of course, the fact that my accent is close to Received Pronunciation, giving me a potential advantage, has no influence on my particular preference.
I remember a few years ago when everything went Posh Scottish. Why was the photo booth I was sitting in in London suddenly occupied by a Scottish Lady? What had happened to the retired BBC newsreader who used to live there? Very confusing.
Recorded announcements at British railways stations have removed some local colour. I remember when I was 14 or 15, going off to London to go skateboarding. Lots of the announcements were made by local staff in strong West Indian or Jamaican accents. Exciting, but often hard to understand.
Dis um traaain goin to Richmoooond!

Mind the gap

26/11/2007

Interesting to see that the Tube’s announcer has been sacked.
I wonder who’ll replace her? Give the recent trend, as observed at Dubai and Amsterdam airports recently, I hope it won’t be someone with an estuary English accent (or common accent, depending on your point of view). Yawr flaiit is leavin nah from gate fowrteen.
Being a bit conservative on these matters, I prefer a standard for these kinds of things and it’s
Received Pronunciation, as learnt by millions of non-native English speakers. A Geordie, Essex or Mancunian accent just isn’t right – give us Posh English, as understood by everyone and able to be laughed at by Brits without fear of upsetting any one community.
Most people learn English hearing Received Pronunciation – a decent standard from which to branch out and learn other regional variations. Of course, the fact that my accent is close to Received Pronunciation, giving me a potential advantage, has no influence on my particular preference.
I remember a few years ago when everything went Posh Scottish. Why was the photo booth I was sitting in in London suddenly occupied by a Scottish Lady? What had happened to the retired BBC newsreader who used to live there? Very confusing.
Recorded announcements at British railways stations have removed some local colour. I remember when I was 14 or 15, going off to London to go skateboarding. Lots of the announcements were made by local staff in strong West Indian or Jamaican accents. Exciting, but often hard to understand.
Dis um traaain goin to Richmoooond!

Improve your nation’s English skills – use subtitles

25/11/2007

For better or worse, the language of business and science is English. If you want your citizens to be able to take part effectively in today’s world, English skills are a must. The majority of films and popular TV series are also recorded in English. Whether that’s a good or bad thing isn’t what’s being discussed here though…
Every time I visit a country where people’s English is generally excellent, I always ask the same question – is the TV people watch dubbed into the local language or subtitled? If standards are very good, the answer is usually ‘subtitled’.
I was astonished last week in Romania at how well people spoke English. People in Sun offices worldwide speak good English, as you’d expect, but my colleagues in Bucharest spoke *excellent* English. Equally, the engineer who came to fix the heating in my hotel room spoke good English, as did the driver who picked me up from the airport. Compare the average standards of English in, say, Germany and France, where TV is dubbed and you’ll find them generally way behind Holland and Romania, outside of the tech world I live in at least.
I wonder if any Education Ministers out there make subtitles a matter of policy?
Watching soaps during my year as a language assistant in Germany made a huge difference to my spoken German. Without Verbotene Liebe and Marienhof, I’d have been able to quote Goethe, but still wouldn’t have been quite sure how to ask someone to pass the butter, or tell someone to keep their hands off my girlfriend or else I’d smack them one in the Schnautze. Not that I had a girlfriend, or would have punched someone in the gob, but it was good to file that one away for potential future reference.

The Times in the UAE

25/11/2007

Old news this, but The Times is now being printed locally in the UAE and is available as a daily edition, covering world events from a British angle, with a good sized UK section.
I think it’s a bit overpriced – 7Dhs for a daily paper irritates me. If it were 3Dhs I’d probably subscribe, but at 7Dhs I’ll just buy it now and then when I know I’ll get a chance to read all of it.
Still, it’s nice to have a daily British paper available. I’ll still enjoy getting the Weekly Telegraph and will still avoid the Weekly Guardian like the plague.

The Dubai Lost Jewellery Beach Club

25/11/2007

I became a member of what is doubtless a large club yesterday – people who have lost items of jewellery whilst at the beach in Dubai.
Whenever we go to the beach I am always very careful to put my wedding ring in the zip pocket of my wallet. There is usually a smaller ceremony where I clearly state ‘I am putting my ring in my wallet’. The wallet then goes into the bag I’m using.
For some stupid reason yesterday I simply put the ring straight into the bag. For some other stupid reason I also didn’t put it back on when we left the beach, as I normally do, which meant I only realised it was missing when we got home. It must have fallen out, goodness knows how, at some point during the afternoon. A nighttime search of the beach yielded no ring.
What an idiot. I am always so careful, then let my standards slip and promptly lose my ring.
My wedding ring is the only piece of jewellery I’ve ever worn, bar some leather bracelet things I had when I was about 17. It took me ages to get used to wearing it and now I feel completely naked without it. Wah.

Time for some competition

25/11/2007

It really is about time that hotels and airports got some competition going between their wifi providers.
I can understand why companies might not want to give this service away for free, however much their customers will love them for it. But if you’re going to charge people, have more than one provider, or the service is going to remain abysmal.
Competition will mean an end to paying 25 Euros for 24 hours, an end to badly designed websites and stupid pop up windows. It will also hopefully mean that if you buy 24 hours of access, you get a full 24 hours – sell me 24 hour long units I can redeem over a period of time, rather than just starting the clock from the moment you pay and not letting me get the full value out of what they’ve bought.
The most irritating thing is hotels that make you use a paper voucher, of all things, not telling you this is their system until you’ve set things up in your room and then forcing you to go back down to reception to get your username and password.

How to make your souless hotel bar more souless

20/11/2007

You run a hotel which has a bar off the lobby. You know that hotel bars are usually rather souless, so you wonder how you can make it more attractive to your guests. You’d prefer them to spend time in there buying drinks, or even suggesting to their local colleagues or travelling colleagues to meet there rather than spend their money elsewhere.
After careful consideration, it’s clear there is only one way to liven up the experience and attract more custom.
That’s right – put a big LCD TV in the corner. That way you can kill whatever conversation might have occurred, now that you have a large TV with the sound turned off. Your guests will now flock to your bar and spend a fortune whilst sitting there in distracted silence watching part of a dismal Adam Sandler movie out of the corner of one eye. The sound maybe turned off, but there are at least subtitles in Romanian for your foreign non-Romanian speaking guests, who seem to make up 90% of your potential clientele. Anyone trying to read a book or newspaper now won’t need to bother – Adam Sandler with Romanian subtitles is exactly what they now know they wanted.
When will the tyranny of pointless flatscreen TVs end? I suggest putting TVs up in every pub and bar, in the theatre, at concerts and in churches, so people can exercise their right to watch snippets of TV, filled with adverts, in a foreign language – with the sound turned off.

Highway to Hell

19/11/2007

One of my favourite places in Dubai is the Marine’s Club at the Seaview Hotel. It’s not really somewhere you’d take you’d go for a quiet evening out, but it’s a great place if you like to hear rock music played very well and very loudly. I tend to visit during the summer when Mrs Saul is on holiday in the UK.
Someone’s taken some videos and put them up on YouTube. Note the pointless TV screens on either side of the band. What you also can’t experience is the pointless DJ that plays exactly the opposite kind of music that the band specialise in when the band is taking a break – why do so many places in Dubai mix their themes up like that?
Rock on, Cherry Garcia (on bass and vocals for this number) and The Golden Stars Band.

Dubai the best place for tax

19/11/2007

A short and (I think) slightly misleading article from The Times.
Whilst citizens might pay a 5% social security charge – something I didn’t know existed – residents pay no income tax or social security contributions at all.
That said, there are plenty of levies and other taxes around in Dubai. VAT’s not been implemented yet, but is apparently on the cards.
The article quotes the average Brit as paying around 29% ‘tax’ – I’ve read before that taking into account VAT, National Insurance, etc, the real figure is around 50% of income.

New Hinglish/Punjablish/Dubailish word

19/11/2007

I’ve learnt a new Hinglish word –
Rounding – a ruse, typically used by dishonest cab drivers, of taking passengers on a longer journey than is necessary, thus increasing the fare to a higher price than would have been expected had the driver taken the most direct route. In vernacular British English this practice is sometimes know as ‘driving around the houses’.
My driver the other day: I am liking British customer, sir.
Me: Oh really? Why is that?
Driver: Sir, they never tell me I am rounding. Asian customer all say I am rounding rounding too much when I am not! Always this is happening. Too much traffic Dubai sir.