The term “broken English” has been used to describe a non-standard version of English spoken or written by non-native speakers. In other words, broken English is a connotation to describe an incomprehensible manner of using English that is flawed according to the traditional English ideology.
Since there is no standard definition of this word, we can also assume that broken English often adapts mistaken vocabulary, faulty grammar, skipping tenses, incomplete structure, and other language aspects that make the construction look different from regular English uttered or written by natives.
The term broken English was not a new term when English is learned by many people and became a global language used largely as an important communication language in the world of business, education, and technology. In the 16th century, Shakespeare mentioned that term in his literary work to describe fellow countries’ English accents.
Two different variations of Broken English
There are generally two situations behind broken English. The first one is the condition that the person is having limited comprehension of English, or secondly, it is already a language variation, often called pidgins, of certain regions or communities.
The first situation often happens in people who speak a language that has a different format from English and have thick accents in their mother tongue. Some people from Asian countries, like Japan, Arabs, India, and Chinese, often face some serious difficulties in using English for the first time. Their language ideology is somehow different from standard English ideology causing a mixed structure, irregular construction arrangement, or even unclear pronunciation. However, the first category of broken English often disappears as people are more familiar with standard English.
Meanwhile, the second category often appears in a wider area by a group of people or a community in different communication contexts. The second situation is more purposely even native speakers will use broken language in order to be accepted in their group. People in the second situation are proud of their English style and slowly it becomes an identity of their groups. As the style is spread and used by a large number of people, the broken English style will generate its special characteristics and be classified as pidgin English.
An example of pidgin that previously is a general style of broken English can be found in Nigerian Pidgin English. Although some linguists refuse this pidgin English as an example of broken English, both characteristics are somewhat similar.
In conclusion, broken English is only a phenomenon that shows a language acquisition process in our society. This thing is completely normal and should never be perceived as a derogatory expression to judge someone’s language competency. Some people argue that speaking broken English is actually a good thing since it proves the process of acquiring a second language.
In further process, someone’s broken language could go in two different directions, which is disappearing because of familiarization or becoming a new English variation that is largely used and accepted by many people. The situation could be completely different due to several factors such as their mother tongue, sociocultural condition, education, and location.
However, education seems to be the most important factor that broken English is persisted. A study suggests that educated people will consistently refine their English according to standards regardless of their mother tongue and cultural background. Meanwhile, the uneducated people who live in a society where language is barely maintained tend to use English carelessly. When the condition persists, broken English will become an acceptable manner of communication among people in their group thus the style will be considered normal for them.
Besides Nigerian pidgin, the Indian English dialect could be an example of non-standard English normalization. When English becomes the second language of most Indian people, their mother tongue and culture take precedence resulting in a tolerable degree of broken English. In writing communication, Indian English just strictly follow the way of British English, yet in communication practice, their English is often neglecting the original English ideology but still acceptable and understandable for English native speakers.