Saturday, 18 April 2009

On welcoming in

A correspondent writes to ask whether it is possible to say 'Welcome in England' as well as 'Welcome to England'.

It certainly isn't standard British or US English, nor have I heard it in regional dialects, but I've certainly heard it used in several of the countries I've visited. The first time I noticed it, about 20 years ago, it took me aback, and I simply put it down to interference from the first language. But I recall once being in Egypt, where several Egyptians at the airport, in taxis, and so on, greeted me warmly with a 'Welcome in Egypt'. Then I met the local British Council director, an English native speaker, who also greeted me with a 'Welcome in Egypt'. So did several other expats. The usage was evidently more than just interference, but an indication of a locally evolving dialect. It reminded me, in its use of an alternative preposition, of the way in which US English has evolved such usages as 'it's a quarter of four' where British English would say 'it's a quarter to four'.

I've no idea just how widespread 'Welcome in' is, around the world, and would be interested to hear from readers of this blog if it's a usage they have in their own countries. I have a feeling it might just become a feature of lingua franca English, one day.

25 comments:

Steve Purcell said...

I have heard this usage in Germany, where it would be the naïve translation of "Wilkommen in England", but it has never occurred to me that it might be remotely proper English.

James D said...

Could this be Welsh (or its ancestors') influence on English? A cursory look on Google reveals that even Frisian follows German on this ("wolkom yn"), whilst Welsh insists on "croeso i [+lenition]" rather than "croeso yn [+nasalization]".

Incidentally, there are some results for "croeso yn" on a well-known search engine, but they don't parse like that. They are either:
1) the other word "yn", which doesn't mean "in" and doesn't cause the nasal mutation, but is a particle that structures certain types of sentences (this one lenites nouns and adjectives, and does nothing to verb-nouns)
2) the phrase "yn ôl" meaning "back".
3) "croeso" used adjectivally, e.g. "canolfan croeso" (literally a "welcome centre", a tourist information office, which may well be located "yn" somewhere)

Barrie England said...

As far as I remember, the Arabic is ‘ahlan wa sahlan FEE . . .’, ‘welcome IN . . .’, so interference may well be at the root of it.

Rob said...

"Welcome in Greece" is probably more common than "Welcome to Greece". The Greek preposition for "in" and "to" is the same ("se), so you can't put it down to interference as such. Perhaps "in" feels more correct to people since you are already there rather than still travelling to the place. And perhaps, beyond that, people copy each other's mistakes: if everybody else says "Welcome in X", and this is written on signs everywhere, you're going to think twice before writing "Welcome to X" on your sign.

Anonymous said...

I agree with those who claim "Welcome in a country" is an interference due to the workings of the interlanguage, as far as users of English as a foreign language are concerned.
In Italy, where I leave and teach English, it is a very common mistakes among students of EFL. I always correct them by saying that 'proper English' has 'to' and not 'in', but I do believe Prof. Crystal is right when he says 'Welcome in a country' is going to be a feature of English as a lingua franca.

Roberto Di Scala

Cormac said...

At the risk of stating the obvious, welcome can be used with 'in' when it's in such sentences as 'Highly skilled workers are welcome in the EU", but as far as I know, not as a kind of greeting.

Working with French learners of English, I've found that L1 interference seems to be the most likely explanation for the occasional use of 'in' and not 'to' since in French we say 'Bienvenue en France' (Welcome in France).
The fact that 'en' is pretty similar to 'in' orthographically and phonologically probably doesn't help either.

I've also seen 'Welcome at France' which may come from the fact that 'to' can be translated as 'en'(in/to/into/from) 'à'(at/to/in/on) or 'au'(at/to/in/on/to the). This might come from a word for word translation which was then retranslated.

Anonymous said...

Most Germans, unless they have a fairly advanced knowledge of English grammar, would say "welcome in Germany" - "willkommen in Deutschland". We only use "to" ("zu") when welcoming someone back home ("willkommen zu Hause" - welcome home") or to a specific event: "Willkommen zu unserer Feier" - "welcome to our party."

محمد إدريس Mohamed Idris said...

In Arabic it is always ‘in’. Examples include ‘ahlan wa sahlan fi’ and ‘marhaban bikom fi’, whereby ‘fi’ means ‘in’. So, I think it is a case of transfer from Arabic into English. I don’t think there is a variety of English that is currently evolving in Egypt. For that to happen, there should be a more extensive use of English in the country. This is not the case. Hence, ‘Welcome in’ is at best a common error.

DC said...

You're ignoring the point that I heard native speakers of English use it. That makes it more than just a 'common error'.

Rob D said...

Very interesting. I agree that it appears to be an example of a locally evolving dialect. I wonder if it is a case of a common NNS mistake becoming so embedded in the language that it is beginning to become part of NS speech. Perhaps, therefore, a nice example of the increasingly blurred (and irrelevant?) distinction between NS and NNS English.

When I taught English in Turkey, we were so used to hearing e.g. "two weeks later" meaning "in two weeks' time" (translated from iki hafta sonra) that we often used it ourselves, even between NS teachers.

Just wondering if this is similar. The expats you met in Egypt are so used to hearing 'Welcome in Egypt' it has become part of the dialect.

محمد إدريس Mohamed Idris said...

The expats you have mentioned may have used ‘welcome in’ because they had been in Egypt for quite some time.

A locally developed dialect, by definition, needs to be developed by and among a huge number of locals rather than expats.

DC said...

And this is exactly what is happening all over the world. Huge numbers of local people, using English in conversation every day, are beginning to shape the language to reflect their own cultures.

Alex Case said...

Could be "L2 interference", something I have suffered from in every country I have taught in due to mainly speaking English with non-native speakers and most of the rest of the time with speakers of English who understand and use the local language too- and perhaps make the same "L2 interference" mistakes. After 5 years in Japan, I still have to make a conscious effort not to say "konbini" when talking about convenience stores or "mansion" for a condominium.

I don't think that necessarily shows the emergence of a ELF form- the sign will be when people who have no contact with a language that causes that "confusion" start to use it, e.g. people in the UK who have never been abroad or people in another country whose language could translate as "welcome to" but spend so much of their time speaking to other non-native English speakers that they have picked up "welcome in"

DC said...

If the same sort of interference turns up in many languages, and 'welcome in' is heard all over the world, I reckon it's only a matter of time before it becomes an ELF form. It's nowhere near that now, of course. Its adoption would be reinforced by 'welcome in' already existing in the L1 variety, as with 'I got a great welcome in that country', and so on. In the meantime, it needs to lose its 'error 'associations, and that in itself will take time.

Nigel Greenwood said...

There is, of course, that well-known multilingual greeting from the MC in Cabaret:

Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!

Im Cabaret, Au Cabaret, To Cabaret!

محمد إدريس Mohamed Idris said...

And this is exactly what is happening all over the world. Huge numbers of local people, using English in conversation every day, are beginning to shape the language to reflect their own cultures.



It is true that English is important in today’s Egypt, but there is no way it can be used by Egyptians to reflect their culture. In that realm Arabic reigns supreme. English may be important in science, education and tourism. A mere ‘welcome in’ is no proof that Egypt is on its way to be an English-speaking country. If there is huge number of local people who use English in conversation every day, there is certainly a much much huger number of Egyptians who use Egyptian Arabic in their daily interactions. You may have met the westernized elite who went to English-medium schools. They may be influential, but they form only a very tiny minority of Egypt’s population.

DC said...

You misunderstand my point. I'm not talking about the way the indigenous languages operate. Of course Arabic reigns supreme. That is how it should be. But that doesn't stop Arabic speakers adopting English and adapting it to reflect their culture as well. That is what we see happening all over the world. I don't know where you got the idea from that I was saying Egypt was gong to be an English-speaking country. All I'm saying is that those people who do speak English, whether as L1 or L2 speakers, will eventually begin to use it to reflect local culture. They will do this even if the L2 speakers are a small minority.

محمد إدريس Mohamed Idris said...

You emphasized the point that Egypt is not going to become an English-speaking country. This is exactly the point. Egypt simply can’t become an English-speaking country. It will be stuck while trying. Incapable of using English properly and unable to make proper use of its native Arabic, it will be in no man’s land for some time until it realizes that English is not the way.

I can use English to tell you almost everything about my culture. That’s something anyone can do. There is nothing exceptional about that. There is no harm in that either. A culture can be reflected using another language, even if the end product does not really reflect the original. However, a culture cannot develop using a foreign medium. There will be a break with the past and a loss of many connotations that the native language has.

Many members of the tiny minority of Egyptians I told you about share little in terms of culture with the rest of Egyptians. Their culture is to a large degree westernized. It is then only logical that they use English to reflect their culture. It is a better alternative for them.

Thanks!

Alex Case said...

This is totally a made up on the spot definition, but maybe we could say that something has become an ELF form when second language learners are as likely to learn/ pick up that as they are to learn/ pick up the presently most common native speaker form. If Japanese, for example, had no particular reason to say "Welcome in" as it wasn't a direct translation from Japanese (can't remember if that is true or not), but it turned out that a substantial proportion of Japanese language learners were picking it up anyway by watching German English language television or being in classes in the UK with Turkish speakers, then I think it would be well on the way.

KateGladstone said...

Could US English's "It's a quarter of four" descend (through some misinterpretation) from earlier Enlish "It lacks/wants a quarter of four"?

DC said...

This is off topic here. I've answered in a separate post.

sister_luck said...

Proof of the usage in Germany, in Berlin to be exact. I don't think the guys with the American flags are native speakers of English, so I suppose this is L1 interference.

Anonymous said...

The moment you leave the main terminal at Warsaw airport, the first thing you see is a sign with "Welcome in Poland" (above a beer bottle...). It appears to be a direct translation from the Polish "Witamy w Polsce". Perhaps a mistranslation?

DC said...

Nice example!

Bob M said...

Been living and teaching in Spain for 13 years and I've never heard it here. Spanish speakers sometimes have problems with the difference between "at", "on" and "in", but I've never heard this one.