Today there was a going away party for some departing summer associates at my firm. One of the Japanese attorneys sitting nearby commented that it's difficult to understand drinking-party English (飲み会英語 nomikai eigo). And I can see what he means.
One particular utterance that came directly from my own mouth demonstrates the point neatly. Some of my more-or-less inebriated non-Japanese colleagues were chugging ramen. Slurping vigorously would be a more accurate description, but we settled on "chugging" to describe the action. When a bowl of ramen was passed my way, I declined, saying, "I ain't chuggin' no noodles!"
The linguistic dissection, after the jump.
Oh how "wrong" is that sentence, let me count the ways. First there's the sort-of-not-quite-right use of the word "chugging", described above. Then I swallowed the "g" at the end of "chugging", so that's one step farther from linguistic purity. Then there's the contraction "am not" to "ain't", which grammatical sticklers the world over frown upon (and which doesn't seemed to be covered in many English classes in Japan). And I bring it all together with the dreaded double negative, an even bigger grammatical faux pas in English.
Rather than being ungrammatical, what we really have here is an example of something that's only grammatically correct in a given kind of language (more on that here); in this case, very informal language. That, together with the somewhat creative word usage (more on that here) make it pretty tough to parse out the meaning for many English learners, even though native speakers would have no trouble (and even though some of those English learners can breeze through contracts and legalese in English that some native speakers might have trouble with).
The attorney in particular that made the comment is actually bolstering his English by watching U.S. television shows, among other things, and with enough of that I expect he'll sooner or later be able to tackle drinking-party English with ease. Now if we can just figure out how to get all English learners in Japan to get the same kind of exposure, we'll be making real headway.