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  • Translator: Mindy Burkhardt Reviewer: Peter van de Ven

  • Hello, everyone.

  • I came here today to talk about simple English that anyone can use.

  • I am a non-native speaker of English.

  • I couldn't speak English,

  • I couldn't write English,

  • but now I can communicate to you

  • what I am doing and why it is important.

  • In fact, I can write about difficult things.

  • My job is to describe technologies.

  • I write about LEDs, smartphones, or other complicated structures.

  • Simple English, meaning speaking or writing clear and plain English,

  • has changed my communication

  • and changed my entire career.

  • My talk today is for all the non-native speakers of English,

  • including Japanese,

  • and those who are natives may also find my talk interesting

  • by watching how non-natives struggle,

  • and how your advanced English

  • or our complicated English

  • can be broken down into simple and clear English.

  • Let me start from my story.

  • Back in 1993, I was at the university in Kyoto.

  • I was bored, depressed, and I had no bright future.

  • I studied English, but I couldn't speak English,

  • and life was not what I expected.

  • After university, I entered a company producing chemicals,

  • and I did some translation from Japanese into English,

  • but I was still bored and depressed.

  • I had no fun at work.

  • I couldn't write good English, and life was difficult.

  • In the year 2000, I changed jobs and became a patent translator.

  • I started to write about technical stuff.

  • I started to write about inventions on LED lamps

  • or smart keys for your automobiles

  • or copying machines, digital cameras.

  • Very technical stuff.

  • In the process of writing all those technical things,

  • I started to realize

  • that I don't need any advanced or complicated English.

  • What I need is simple and plain, easy English

  • to describe difficult things.

  • I started to read books on what is called "technical writings,"

  • and I liked their ideas.

  • They say, for example:

  • "Use the active voice. Put statements in positive form.

  • Use definite, concrete language.

  • Omit needless words. Avoid fancy words."

  • I liked their idea.

  • So, for example, instead of "The gas does not have any odor"

  • - odor meaning "smell" -

  • I wrote "the gas is odorless,"

  • by using the positive form.

  • "It is interesting to note that there are seven steps

  • that must be completed in order to make a successful presentation."

  • I wrote:

  • "To make a successful presentation seven steps must be completed."

  • This revision actually follows one of my favorite style manuals.

  • They say to omit empty phrases

  • such as "it is interesting to note that."

  • Interestingly, they think that "it is interesting to note that"

  • is an empty phrase.

  • That interested me.

  • (Laughter)

  • They say, "Avoid any unnecessary words,"

  • and they say, "Write economically by using single words."

  • Many of you here may want to use, for example, "in order to"

  • in your speaking or writing,

  • but then they say that you should use only "to."

  • I liked their idea.

  • I'll give you another example.

  • This is a piece of writing from my student, last week.

  • He wrote: "According to a recent study,

  • it has been shown that stress -

  • people are stressful these days -

  • can be a trigger of Alzheimer's disease."

  • Excellent.

  • Advanced and grammatically correct English.

  • But then I rewrote:

  • "Recent research shows

  • that stress can trigger Alzheimer's disease."

  • In the process of this writing,

  • I started to see a bright light.

  • I studied hard, worked hard, and within a year,

  • I passed a first level technical writing test in Japan.

  • Luckily, I was awarded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports,

  • Science and Technology, in Japan.

  • I was lucky.

  • Then things started to change.

  • I became a chief instructor at the Japan Society of Technical Communication, JSTC.

  • I worked as a patent translator on a freelance basis for ten years.

  • I published two books:

  • one on the basics of technical writing

  • and the other on patent translation.

  • Last year I founded a company in Kyoto.

  • Until the year 2000,

  • I was depressed and confused

  • and even felt hopeless.

  • I had never even dreamed of writing books,

  • and I had no way of speaking in front of people.

  • Simple English changed me.

  • Simple English motivated me.

  • I never gave up.

  • Simple English changed my entire life.

  • I am here hoping that spreading this idea will help people.

  • Now, I want to share with you one tip for simple English.

  • Very easy, anyone can use this tip.

  • If you have your headsets on for simultaneous translation,

  • you can try taking them off,

  • and try finding the beauty or the power of simple English.

  • So, let's begin.

  • Use verbs!

  • Verbs meaning "words to express action."

  • "Smile" or "eat" or "run".

  • Verbs are powerful, so use dynamic verbs rather than static ones.

  • For example, instead of "I am a teacher of English,"

  • say, "I teach English."

  • Instead of "I belong to a soccer team,"

  • say, "I play soccer."

  • Instead of "It is difficult for me to speak in front of many people,"

  • say, "I cannot speak in front of many people".

  • Instead of "The number of non-natives at TedxKyoto University,

  • or in the entire world,

  • is greater than the number of natives,"

  • you can also say,

  • "Non-natives outnumber natives,"

  • by using only three words.

  • See: subject, verb, and an object.

  • Somebody does something.

  • I also use the active voice whenever possible.

  • The active voice meaning that the subject is the doer of an action;

  • the passive voice meaning that the subject is a receiver of an action.

  • Compare the two sentences here:

  • "In the year 2011, I was sad;

  • Tohoku was hit by the great earthquake,"

  • or "In the year 2011, the great earthquake hit Tohoku."

  • You can see the active voice is more direct, clearer,

  • and uses fewer words.

  • In this process of revising,

  • black clouds in my head, in my mind, disappeared altogether,

  • and my life got better.

  • I thought I should tell this idea

  • to anyone who has less confidence in their English.

  • You know, according to a survey conducted by the British Council,

  • 72% of business people in Japan think they lack confidence in their English.

  • 90% of my students say they lack confidence in their English.

  • From the year 2006,

  • I go anywhere to teach this simple English to anyone,

  • including business people,

  • translators and engineers,

  • and students at the universities.

  • I like them.

  • I also teach at Kyoto University as well.

  • I encourage them to write or present their ideas

  • or their technologies in simple English.

  • Amazingly they learn very quickly.

  • Their confident smiles after the course moved me.

  • They said simple English changed their communication.

  • You see, they look super happy.

  • This is my final message to you:

  • try using simple English.

  • Talk to people around you,

  • especially if you have a lunch break after this session.

  • Introduce yourself in simple English.

  • Again, you don't have to say:

  • "I am a student at Kyoto University, I belong to a polymer department,"

  • or "I work for a manufacturing company for diesel engines.

  • I am, by the way, an engineer."

  • It's difficult.

  • So, just say, "I study polymers," or "I develop diesel engines."

  • Also, talk to speakers here at TedxKyoto University.

  • You'll find them around, talk to them.

  • Again, you don't have to say,

  • "I was interested in your talk," or "I found your idea great."

  • You don't have to say that.

  • You can also say, "Your talk interests me,"

  • by using a subject, verb, and an object.

  • You can also say, and I hope you would say to me as well,

  • "I like your idea."

  • Thank you very much.

  • (Applause)

Translator: Mindy Burkhardt Reviewer: Peter van de Ven

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A2 simple technical active voice writing write kyoto

Simple English for Everyone | Yukiko Nakayama | TEDxKyotoUniversity

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