Thursday, September 10, 2009

English Lesson: Learning English with Google

Recently, I looked at how Japanese people use English words differently from Americans -- specifically, I talked about the word "challenge." In fact, there are many words that fit this category. Today, let's look at "renewal" and "reform."

In Japan, these two words are often used to talk about fixing a building, a business or a home.

renewal -- Here is a site about improving Koshien Stadium in Hyogo Prefecture, home of the annual Summer HS Baseball Tournament.

reform -- Take a look at this site for a company (with an impressive-sounding name) that will fix up your home.*

(from here)

Well, Americans use "reform" and "renewal" very differently. We don't use these words to talk about homes or stadiums. How do we use them? OK. Try this. Go to Google News and do a search for "reform."

What did you find? Lots and lots of stories about healthcare reform. It's the hot topic of the year. And it makes some people in the US very emotional.

So, reform is a word we use to talk about improving or changing political processes and government programs. And there are lots of programs and processes that need change: Social Security reform, immigration reform...

How about renewal? Did you check Google News? Did you find anything about buildings or stores or stadiums? Nope. Renewal has to do with licenses:

Every few years, I have to renew my driver's license.

Some married couples renew their wedding vows on their wedding anniversary.

So, what should you use when you talk about buildings? Try "renovate," or "refurbish."

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* I started to notice the word "reform" in Japan while watching a show called "Before/After," which is similar to "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" except without all the excessive emotional manipulation.

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