On Language Proficiency of Politicians and Foreign-Native Language Proficiency Differential

Introduction

The paths to success in politics are varied. Political Theorists and Sociologists are long interested in understanding the patterns of political success. On the other hand, layman’s political vocabulary is dominated by “charisma” of leaders, “masculinity” and so on. The problem with such unprincipled approaches are apparent when one thinks about the elusiveness of these terms. Take charisma for instance, there are many “charismatic” figures in the history such that, the same person after some time, almost invariably becomes very hard to take seriously at all. Hitler is just one famous example. It is of course the tragedy of certain people to see through the “charisma” of such leaders the ridiculous elements before the herd does.

In the night of 23 of June (in Singapore time), a very curious event occurred. The mayor of the capital city of Turkey, as expressed colorfully by Andrew Duff (Andrew_Duff_MEP), had gone “completely mad”. The events that lead to this outrage is out of the scope of this article; but the readers are referred to http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/ankara-mayor-accuses-bbc-turkish-journalist-of-being-an-agent-in-twitter-campaign.aspx?pageID=238&nID=49345&NewsCatID=341 .

 

In this article, we will be interested in Ib. Melih Gokcek’s proficiency of using Turkish and English in his tweets. We will quantify the alleged “lack of sufficient proficiency” and also answer certain questions that were posed by many, including whether his English usage is better than his Turkish. Of course, the results are shown with complete objectivity and statistical care. However, the implications may be considered by political theorists and, of course, the people of Ankara. It may be particularly of interest to analyse the correlation of language proficiency and voter behaviour. But without further speculation, the results are presented.

Data

Before giving the results of statistical analysis and the interpretations, the procedure of data collection will be briefly explained. To facilitate the analysis, the data regarding the discussions were collected by manually copying them from twitter (from 06 Ib. Melih Gokcek’s account) from a 24 hour period. Some very small tweets (say, less than 3 words) that are not indicative of language skills were omitted; but otherwise, all the tweets have been included. The data is divided into English and Turkish tweets; because one of the main goals of this study is to be able to detect a difference between the usage of these two languages, if any. Overall, 51 Turkish tweets and 15 English tweets were collected. It is, of course, a valid question when one asks how so many tweets (remember, there are also many smaller tweets that were omitted) are posted by someone with supposedly so many responsibilities. But, in this article, we are not concerned with this fact.

After the data collection step, the tweets were individually inspected to find any misuse of language. But, the following points are to be noted;

Errors due to spacing and common techniques to fit into twitter restricted message spaces are omitted.

Some errors can be attributed to typing, but they are still considered as errors. So some rate of error would be justifiable (i.e. we do not expect perfect usage).

Sometimes the “…” is used correctly; but it is most of the time wrong. Therefore, we analysed the errors in two parts, with\without including such cases. The complete errors (including misused “…”) are denoted as less-serious errors and the ones without those are called the serious errors. The results for both these cases are given in the text.

Errors due to EN/TUR keyboard differences were omitted.

Some notes on ellipsis usage

Many people believe that the characteristic of 06 Ib. Melih Gokcek’s tweeting style is the all-caps writing. One example among many is;

“@TheRedHack BİR RİCAM OLACAK…ŞİMDİ SELİN GİRİT’E ATTiĞIM TWİTLERİN İNGİLİZCESİNİ ATAĞIM…Bİ ZAMET BUNU DA SERVİSLERİNİZ VASITASIYLA TÜM>> TÜM DÜNYA YADA YAYIVERİN…”

The above example also shows the extents of horrible communication. But returning to the point, one of our findings is that, it is actually the misuse of the ellipsis that characterizes his style.  The usage of ellipsis is thought to indicate intellectual depth and it is a common pitfall to use it too much. Our analysis of 06 Ib. Melih Gokcek’s tweets indicate that he uses it way too much (%84 of his Turkish tweets, though all-caps usage is slightly more: %92; but we believe ellipsis misuse is more unique in adults).  Without further discussion of this issue, we leave it to the reader and the experts to make their deductions.

Is His English better than his Turkish ?

When the responses to 06 Ib. Melih Gokcek’s tweets were analysed, it was found that a significant number of people claimed that his English skills were better than his Turkish skills; this is, of course, odd for a government worker. According to proper usage of statistical methods, we set up our hypothesis before collecting the data, which is whether the propensity of errors in Turkish is greater than that in English or not. The equal tailed hyper-geometric test (which is used as an approximation to the UMPU test as the author felt lazy) at %5 significance level indicates that the propensity of errors in Turkish can not be claimed to be greater than that in English, using his tweets at the indicated day.

To deepen our understanding, a point test of equality was also conducted which also showed that there’s not enough evidence to claim a difference in propensities of errors. However, when we inspect the ML estimates (lesser-Turkish-errors: %69, serious-Turkish-errors: %34, English errors: %66), we see that there is actually some reason to think that his English is actually worse, which is the more natural result. However, as indicated previously, statistical significance of this difference is not enough.

Conclusions

In this article, the language misuse of a government official was quantified and several questions from the general public were answered. Contrary to the wide claims, it was found that the misuse of both of the languages are almost equal; that is equally horrendous.

 

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