One December weekend before Christmas, I decided to visit Stratford-upon-Avon, the hometown of English poet and writer William Shakespeare. I went there with the Manchester International Society organising cultural events and bus trips across the UK for students and members of the university community.
Whilst the bus was carrying us from Northern England to Midlands, I had a very nice chat with a female master student from China who came to Manchester to study intercultural communication. We shared a common interest in Lake poetry and experienced similar problems of using English English, as far as we were native speakers of Russian and Chinese languages.
For the first time, I leant that British English should be called English English from my main supervisor who explained to me how to use it in my thesis properly. Not ‘practice’ but ‘practise’, not ‘garbage’ but ‘rubbish’, not ‘while’ but ‘whilst’, etc.
My acquaintance, a master student, told me that there was a hierarchy of English languages. For example, British English and American English take higher positions within the hierarchy of languages compared to Australian and Canadian variants, whilst Asian and Chinese English-es take the lowest positions because of the sounds and pronunciations that are typical for those groups of languages.
Meanwhile, our bus reached the green fields of Warwickshire and I saw a couple of road signs reading ‘Shakespeare’s town’ and ‘London’. Once the bus dropped us off in Stratford-upon-Avon, we noticed that the car parking was very busy. Crowds of people, including us, were going towards the Victorian Christmas Fayre taking place in the town centre.
The Fayre stalls located along the main streets near the river Avon were full of Christmas gifts, decorations, hand-crafted goods, candles and illuminations. The smell of fried potatoes, mulled wine and other tasty food mixed with the Christmas spirit was in the air. People were waiting in queues to grab something to eat or drink.
And Shakespeare as a linguistic sign looked at the crowded street from different corners and through the windows of pubs, shops and half-timbered houses. One could see his images on hotel signs, hoodies, mugs, copybooks and souvenirs. We followed Henley Street and came across William Shakespeare’s statue that was surrounded by people visiting the Christmas Fayre.