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In my work, I spend a lot of time speaking with international colleagues from Asia and South America. I am from the United States.

The English regionalisms I notice in these countries can be surprising, and sometimes so frequently used that I find myself tempted to adopt them for the sake of smooth communication.

The example that prompted this question is saying "doubts" instead of "questions or concerns." This subject was discussed several years ago on the English Language & Usage stack here:

'Questions' vs. 'Concerns' vs. 'Doubts'

When speaking with people in South America I often hear:

Let me know if you have any doubts

where I would normally say

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns

Sometimes it seems to me almost as though we are speaking different languages, and I'm tempted to say "If you have any doubts, let me know" for the sake of keeping us on the same level of communication. As someone who loves English (I spend most of my time here on EL&U) I also simply find regional speech fascinating.

But I am worried about the possibility of sounding as though I am either appropriating their linguistic idiosyncracies or mimicking speech in a way that might be offensive.

Would it be offensive to speak to someone internationally and use an English regionalism native to their dialect?

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    @Catija I mean various South American countries like Argentina and Uruguay. Saying "doubts" is not purely South American, but the linked EL&U question discusses how it is uniquely common in India and some Spanish speaking countries. – RaceYouAnytime Dec 4 '17 at 22:45
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    As to whether this question is too opinion-based, maybe I don't know the criteria on this site well enough. This is a question seeking advice about how to behave in interpersonal situations so it seemed on-topic to me. – RaceYouAnytime Dec 4 '17 at 22:48
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    @Catija fair enough, you can close the question if you wish. It seems to me like many questions here don't have a "correct" answer. // I hear "doubts" all the time as well but not to mean "questions or concerns." It's this specific idiomatic use that seems to be regional. – RaceYouAnytime Dec 4 '17 at 22:53
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    @RaceYouAnytime " It seems to me like many questions here don't have a "correct" answer." I think you're defining "correct" to mean "works well for everyone". That's the source of the issue. There is no absolute solution to resolving interpersonal conflict. You need to address it on a case by case basis. If your question e.g. entailed a specific interaction with a specific person, it would've been much more on topic. It's nigh impossible for anyone to draft a global rule that applies to all future conversations on the topic. It would end with infinite "not for me" comment replies. – Flater Dec 5 '17 at 11:28
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    @RaceYouAnytime: Consider the difference between "how do I build cars that work" and "this car isn't working. How do I make it work?". The latter might be solved by a mechanic in under an hour. The former is an educational course spanning several years. – Flater Dec 5 '17 at 11:30
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In India, as you noticed, we "prepone" things, do the "needful", ask "doubts", and ask what's your "good name". But we don't expect westerners to actually use Indianisms.

While it's not offensive per se, I'd consider it unnecessary. Use your own style of English, is what I'd recommend. What would be offensive is if you would "correct" Indians about their words, words that are now well understood or accepted throughout India, although disliked by other speakers of English.

I am, as many here already know, an Indian. I also speak many Indian languages. Cambridge and a few other dictionaries suggest that "do the needful" was originally British but then picked up by Indians.

  • I'm honestly curious; is there a reason why Indians favor "needful"? I've never heard anyone else use the word, especially in a context of "do the needful". Is it something that literally translates to a common Hindi word? Is it a part of the regional English dialect in India? – Flater Dec 5 '17 at 11:32
  • Not exactly, but I grew up hearing "do the needful" in place of "do what's necessary". I don't know how exactly or who first made it Indian. It must have originally come from the British. – NVZ Dec 5 '17 at 11:38
  • I'm British, Scottish by birth and inclination, Northern English by heritage. I use 'do the needful' because it was part of my language landscape growing up in the 60s/70s. Now that I think about it, it is just possible that my father picked it up at work from Bangladeshi and Gujarati colleagues. but whether it is Indian or English in origin, its isn't unknown here. – Spagirl Dec 5 '17 at 12:10
  • @Spagirl Cambridge and a few other dictionaries suggest that "do the needful" was originally British but then picked up by Indians. – NVZ Dec 5 '17 at 14:06
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I would say that, if you don't see the other person struggling to understand you, there is no need to adapt to their version of English, they will understand you either way. I would add that you should not try to correct them, either. (I once told a professor "I have a doubt" and he replied out loud, in front of all the class, "no, you have a question" and I'm still angry.)

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sounding as though I am either appropriating

There is no such thing as cultural appropriation. It does not exist. If someone tells you that cultural appropriation is a thing, retort that using antibiotics is cultural appropriation and wait for them to get sick.

Would it be offensive to speak to someone internationally and use an English regionalism native to their dialect?

Nope.

English is my 2nd language (I'm French). Obviously when traveling and communicating over the internet with people, English is the most often used language. In a conversation between two non-native English speakers, sometimes they will pause and wonder if they used the right word, or realize they made a mistake. Most of the time the other got it anyway, though.

Since it is your native language, you will have a much "sharper" definition of words or idioms. But for someone who just uses English for business (or occasionally), they might have learned about an expression or phrase in a context you don't know about, it might mean something slightly different to them, it might sound like something familiar in their own language that is actually different, etc. When I meet someone who speaks French as a second language, I really give them a break. If they want to, I can correct, but if the purpose is discussing stuff and getting things done, then of course that takes precedence.

Point is, when you are using International English, you will get away with a lot.

No-one cares. You're doing business or having a date, not discussing grammar.

Since you are the native speaker however, you will usually have better command of the language, so it is your responsibility to use the words the other will understand best. But if the other understands your own regionalisms just fine, keep them. If they use a word in a weird way, feel free to ask. From the point of view of an International English speaker, English is a very useful tool which gets the job done. Again, no-one cares.

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    Oh, come on. You have got to stop the way you write answers. It's become a burden for others to "edit" out the rude portions. – NVZ Dec 5 '17 at 8:34
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    Dear peufeu, I honestly like a lot of the ideas you bring to the discussion, but I simply cannot upvote yours oftentimes, because it comes bloated with some rude tones or unnecessary commentary. I donno how exactly I can help you understand the point I'm trying to make. – NVZ Dec 5 '17 at 10:52
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    Imagine teaching a subject. What would be more effective? Shouting about it? Or kindly explaining it? Imagine inviting a guest over for lunch. What would be better? Telling them to "come and eat from my place, you parasites"? No!. – NVZ Dec 5 '17 at 10:55
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    The problem on these is that you bring an interesting and valid perspective to the table but every time it's couched in so much mockery and unfriendliness and downright rude behavior that we have to spend an inordinate amount of time to sift through and fix by hand or delete. – Magisch Jan 2 '18 at 15:15

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