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  1. #1
    JarekSteliga is offline Member
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    Native - non-native communication

    Perhaps it is not just I who is curious to know what goes on in a native English speaker's mind when they encounter an ESL (English as a Second Language) speaker.
    Which steps (if any) are they likely to take to facilitate that instance of communication? I suppose before looking deeper into this we should divide native speakers into two groups:
    1. Those who are unfamiliar with an idea of learning ("the hard way") a foreign language
    (and who can blame them? ).
    2. Those who either had/have learned a foreign language and/or are English teachers
    themselves.

    It is the first group with which communication can be particularly problematic.

    My personal experience in dealing with people belonging to this group is that their reaction is mixed and varies from condescension (making remarks like: "your English is very good" and never trying to engage in any real conversation) to completely ignoring the fact of their interlocutor's linguistic deficiency. My ability to speak English has on these occasions always been taken for granted as far as the "accent" and the speed of utterance
    were concerned.
    A good illustration of this will be my encounter (on the phone and in the line of duty) with a USA soldier serving in Germany. Since I had actual difficulty in asserting the fact that the language he spoke was even a form of English and naturally peltet him more often than not with words like "please repeat", he soon grew impatient and eventually furious at my apparent dumbness and hung up. The only measure this man could think of to make himself better understood was to raise his voice .

    So my question again. Do native speakers have any clues how to render their speech more ESL speaker friendly?

  2. #2
    susiedq is offline Member
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    Re: Native - non-native communication

    I once acted as an intermediary to complete an order from a woman in Alabama, USA ,and to a salesperson in Toronto, Canada. They could not understand each other, even though English was spoken by both.

    There are many factors to take in consideration, accent being a huge one.

  3. #3
    JarekSteliga is offline Member
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    Re: Native - non-native communication

    Quote Originally Posted by susiedq View Post
    I once acted as an intermediary to complete an order from a woman in Alabama, USA ,and to a salesperson in Toronto, Canada. They could not understand each other, even though English was spoken by both.

    There are many factors to take in consideration, accent being a huge one.
    And did they pay you for your interpretation work ?!!

    This example shows what the lack of good will and patience may lead to. I have witnessed in my life native speakers of different languages like Spanish and Italian carrying on conversations of sorts. I myself attempted to converse with native Czech or Slovakian speakers. It was laughable but not altogether futile.

  4. #4
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    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Native - non-native communication

    There are certainly some people (not a large proportion) who would expect that if you are going to speak in English, it's your place to make yourself intelligible and to understand their accent, and not their responsiblity to compensate for your shortcomings or meet you part way. I'm sure that many of us can attest that this doesn't only happen with English native speakers. Some humans are just like that no matter what their native tongue is. And they probably behave with a similar lack of sensitivity in non-language situations.

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Native - non-native communication

    A lot depends on how accustomed people are to speaking with non-native speakers- people who do it on a regular basis will be better at it as they will have strategies to handle difficulties.

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