Here I was happily working away on yet another tight deadline translation - why they always have to be done so quickly I don’t know - and then I started to stumble on some words.
They looked oddly familiar, but weren’t. Even my trusty translation app or online dictionaries didn’t know them. And they weren’t exactly tough scientific words, they were much more simple than that.
Finally I realized why they looked familiar. They were English words but masquerading as Dutch; a few new letters stuck to the word and now it was normal Dutch. I found it a bit disorienting.
Although it was a good lesson in realizing that language is a living thing; it changes almost with each generation. A language that gets used and mingles with words from other languages, more so in our hyper-connected world, is bound to change and evolve.
For example, when I first arrived in the US the word “impact” was rarely used as a verb, but now its use as a verb is very common. When I proof read an essay for some high school students on the robotics team I happened to mention this. The kids reacted shocked. To them “impact” was both a verb and an adjective and they were very comfortable using it as a verb.
But I could still clearly remember the delicate rant a coworker, with a passion for language in its purer forms, went on some twenty years ago. Consequently I’ve been very careful in my use of the word ‘impact’.
To the teenagers I interact with a sentence like: “His has impacted the situation...” is very normal.
They’re less likely to say the sentence in this way: “His actions have had an impact on the situation ....”
I feel I’m on somewhat shaky ground as I'll always consider myself a student of language, but I do pick up a thing or two, and listen when those who know grammar tell me their tale of woe when they see changes happening to their language (on either side of the Atlantic). But truly, language is a living thing and change is inevitable in life. The unique character is bound to remain in any language, despite change.