HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH PEOPLE WHO SPEAK ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE (ESL).GREGORY SAWIN [*]
THIS ARTICLE was inspired by an e-mail that the International Society for General Semantics gen·er·al semantics
n. (used with a sing. verb)
A discipline developed by Alfred Korzybski that proposes to improve human behavioral responses through a more critical use of words and symbols. received from a business-woman in England who wanted recommendations for books on "... clear and concise communication in business, especially for global or multinationals working with offices in non-native-English-speaking countries." I didn't know of any books on this topic, but I began thinking about her request. I came up with several guidelines, which I e-mailed to her. Since then, I have added to my collection of tips.
For three decades, I have found that rational thinking and clear communication make life easier. I applied some of my communication skills by helping my friends from China and Japan improve their fluency in English as a Second Language (ESL (1) An earlier family of client/server development tools for Windows and OS/2 from Ardent Software (formerly VMARK). It was originally developed by Easel Corporation, which was acquired by VMARK. ). I can appreciate the difficulties and frustrations experienced by ESL students because I struggled as a JSL JSL Journal of Symbolic Logic
JSL Job Source Library (Xerox)
JSL Jatiya Sramik League (Bangladeshi Trade Union Organization)
JSL Joint Support List
JSL Java Search Library
JSL Jet Select Logic student in an Intermediate Japanese Reading class at San Francisco State University • • [ in the late 1970s. In the 1990s, for seven years, I was married to a lady from China who spoke no English when I met her. I learned a lot from her about ESL.
I offer the following true stories as appetizers before we get into the main course.
Yukiko, a friend from Japan, wondered why Australians are happy about mothers dying. She said they always smile when they say "mothers die." Eventually, she figured out that the Australians were talking about celebrating "Mother's Day."
Takako, my Japanese girlfriend at the time, joined me for dinner with a few friends and relatives at a friend's home. After the meal we had cookies and ice cream for dessert, and I witnessed this exchange: The hostess asked her, "Don't you want another cookie?" Takako answered, "Yes." The hostess picked up the plate of cookies and tried to pass it to her, but Takako politely refused it, saying "No thank you, I am full." The hostess, now puzzled, but trying to maintain a smile, slowly withdrew the plate. At this point, I explained to the hostess that Takako took her question literally, and gave a logical answer: Yes, I do not want another cookie. The moral of this story: Do not ask a question that contains a negation NEGATION. Denial. Two negations are construed to mean one affirmation. Dig. 50, 16, 137. word (such as don't, can't, won't, isn't, wasn't, hasn't, not, or no). Instead, ask questions in a positive form, such as "Do you want another cookie?"
On another occasion, I heard Takako say "juyo de nai." As a student of Japanese, I wanted to expand my vocabulary, so I asked her what it meant, and she said, "It's not important." Persisting, I said, "OK, it's not important; just tell me what it means." She held her ground and repeated, "It's not important." She disappointed me because she wouldn't cooperate. We kept on arguing -- she was so stubborn! Finally, she managed to get it through my head that "not important" was the meaning of "juyo de nai!" Oops. Our misunderstanding reminds me of the Abbott and Costello Abbott and Costello (kŏstĕl`ō), American comedy team of William Alexander "Bud" Abbott, 1895–1974, b. Asbury Park, N.J., and Lou Costello, 1906–59, b. Paterson, N.J., as Louis Francis Cristillo. "Who's on First?" comedy routine.
A few Australian friends visited the San Francisco Bay Area “Bay Area” redirects here. For other uses, see Bay Area (disambiguation).
The San Francisco Bay Area, colloquially known as the Bay Area or The Bay . One of the ladies was about my age and quite attractive. I had not met her before. During dinner at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden , she looked me right in the eye and, with some conviction (as if she were desperate), she said "I'm looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. sex." Well, why was she telling me? I really didn't know what to say. It was a flattering remark, the kind I don't get very often (actually, never). During the pregnant pause that followed, my imagination raced toward an exciting future scenario -- Oh, baby! -- but before I could get there, she spoke again. "I want to shop at the Sex Fifth Avenue department store." Her comment slamdunked me back to reality. All I could say was "Oh, Saks Fifth Avenue Saks Fifth Avenue is a chain of upscale American department stores that is owned and operated by Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises (SFAE), a subsidiary of Saks Incorporated. It competes in the elite luxury department store market with Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New ," as I tried to recover.
Now for the main course, two lists of suggestions for improving communication with speakers of ESL:
* Enunciate carefully and speak slowly. ESL people may find it difficult to catch machine-gun English. Give listeners a bit more time to absorb and think about what you said. Remember that they may need extra time between words to mentally translate your statements.
* Phone conversations can be challenging for ESL people, so speak clearly and not too fast in these situations also. The listener can't see the lip movements, facial expressions, and gestures of the speaker, which might provide helpful cues. Different words sometimes have the same sound (write and right, know and no, principal and principle, etc.). Other words have similar sounds (affect and effect, than and then, etc.), and some consonants This is a list of all consonants, ordered by place and manner of articulation. Ordered by place of articulation
* Speak in the active voice. This will make your statements shorter and simpler than when you speak in the passive voice. For example, instead of "There are ten people who are going to be attending the party" (passive voice), say "Ten people will attend the party" (active voice). That's six fewer words for the listener, and the meaning of the sentence has not changed significantly. A very useful training tool in general semantics is E-Prime (English without the verb to be, such as is, was, are, were, am, be, been). By practicing E-Prime, you learn to use the active voice, which can make your spoken English clearer. (1)
* When speaking, do not use contractions. For example, the contraction, "can't" might be heard as "can." I recommend that both ESL speakers and native English speakers avoid contractions.
* Avoid idioms such as "I have a bone to pick with you" or "Get on the ball." (2) Also avoid trendy expressions, such as "What's up with that?" (3) It surprises me how often I use expressions that don't say what they really mean. For years I have disciplined myself to be mindful about what I say and who I say it to, but sometimes I still catch myself using words and expressions that don't work with ESL listeners.
* Write shorter sentences. For example, consider this sentence: "Due to the increase in the salary of the employees of the company, the workers who were considering leaving made a joint decision to stay." It can be shortened to "Because their salaries were increased, the workers who thought of leaving decided to stay."
* Prefer simpler forms of words (such as "recommend" vs. "recommending" or "recommendation"; "notify" vs. "notifying" or "notification").
* Eliminate "fat" words (which give practically no information), and use "muscle" words that "work" for you by providing specifics (such as how many). For example, compare "A certain number of people signed up for the class" (fat words: "a certain number") vs. "Forty-three people signed up for the class" (muscle word: "forty-three").
* When writing, avoid the expressions in [brackets]; instead use the words in bold:
* [via] by
* [remit] pay
* [utilize] use
* [render] give
* [initiate] start
* [endeavor] try
* [have to] must
* [prior to] before
* [erroneous] wrong
* [commence] begin
* [in the event that] if
* [subsequent to] after
* [in the amount of] for
* [for the purpose of] to
* [remittance] payment
* [we are going to] we will
* [due to the fact] because
* [with regard to] regarding
* [give assistance to] assist
* [make application to] apply
* [have a preference for] prefer
* [achieve improvements] improve
* [with the exception of] except for
* [take into consideration] consider
* If possible, minimize jargon (abbreviations, acronyms, and technical terminology Technical terminology is the specialized vocabulary of a field. These terms have specific definitions within the field, which is not necessarily the same as their meaning in common use. ), especially if your readers will be the general public. Corporate people often communicate this way: "Two months ago, this dot-coin should have been DOA (jargon) DOA - Dead on arrival. A piece of hardware that has never worked. , but a new COO plus a new manager of the S&M Department saved the company." Although this can be a time-saver, some readers may not know all the codes. When abbreviations (such IBM (International Business Machines Corporation, Armonk, NY, www.ibm.com) The world's largest computer company. IBM's product lines include the S/390 mainframes (zSeries), AS/400 midrange business systems (iSeries), RS/6000 workstations and servers (pSeries), Intel-based servers (xSeries) , International Business Machines) or acronyms (such as UNESCO UNESCO: see United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
in full United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization , United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), specialized agency of the United Nations, with headquarters in Paris. Its counterpart in the League of Nations was the International Committee for Intellectual Cooperation. ) appear in a corporate document, define each one when it first appears. For example, "She will attend the national Public Broadcasting Service “PBS” redirects here. For other uses, see PBS (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Public Broadcasting Services in Malta.
The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS (PBS PBS
in full Public Broadcasting Service
Private, nonprofit U.S. corporation of public television stations. PBS provides its member stations, which are supported by public funds and private contributions rather than by commercials, with educational, cultural, ) conference. More than 100 people are expected to attend this annual PBS event." If a corporate document must contain technical terms, these could be defined in a glossary at the end of the document.
* Write for your readers, not for yourself. Consider what they need to know and how you should present it to them. As you write and edit your document, ask yourself, "What vocabulary level should I use?" "Could any of this be misunderstood?" "Do I have any ambiguous sentences?" "Have I left out something that is obvious to me, but would not be obvious to the reader?" "Should I include flowcharts, graphs, tables, diagrams, or illustrations to help get my message across?" "Does my message flow in a logical sequence, sentence to sentence, and paragraph to paragraph?" Remember the words of Robert Louis Stevenson: "Hard writing makes easy reading."
(*.) Gregory Sawin edited and co-authored Thinking & Living Skills. General Semantics for Critical Thinking (an illustrated anthology for students and teachers in high school and college). His introduction to general semantics for potential readers of his book appears at the amazon.com web site. He serves as VP/Publications of ISGS ISGS Illinois State Geological Survey
ISGS Integrated Starter/Generator System , and works as a freelance medical/technical editor for biotechnology companies Top 100 Biotechnology Companies
The following is a list of the top 100 biotechnology companies ranked by revenue. The first nine companies qualify for the list of the top 50 pharmaceutical companies. and universities in the San Francisco Bay Area.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(1.) Bourland, Jr., D. David, and Johnston, Paul D., eds. To Be or Not: An E-Prime Anthology. Concord, CA: International Society for General Semantics, 3rd printing 1993.
(2.) Swick, Edward. American Idioms and Some Phrases Just for Fun. Barron's Educational Series Barron's Educational Series, Inc. is an American test preparation company, founded in 1941 as a publisher of materials to help students to prepare for college entrance examinations, and that offers college entrance exam preparation classes. , 1999.
(3.) Gozzi, Jr., Raymond. New Words and a Changing American Culture. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press The University of South Carolina Press (or USC Press), founded in 1944, is a university press that is part of the University of South Carolina. External link
• , 1990. This book probably will expand your awareness of the many slang terms and trendy words that could mystify ESL people. Dr. Gozzi writes the "Metaphors in Action" feature in ETC.
The books listed below also relate to the topic of this article:
Brill Brill or Bril, Flemish painters, brothers.
Mattys Brill (mä`tīs), 1550–83, went to Rome early in his career and executed frescoes for Gregory XIII in the Vatican. , Laura. Business Writing Quick & Easy. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : American Management Association, 1981.
Burke, David. Biz Talk-2: More American Business Slang and Jargon. Optima Books, 1998.
Burke, David; Chancer Chancer was a British television serial produced by Central Television for ITV. It told the story of a likeable conman and rogue (played by Clive Owen) at the end of the yuppie eighties. , Mark; and Graul, Robert. Biz Talk-1: American Business Slang and Jargon. Optima Books, 1993.
Geffner, Andrea B. Barron's ESL Guide to American Business English Business English is English especially related to international trade. It is a specialism within English language learning and teaching; for example, the teachers' organisation IATEFL has a special interest group called BESIG. . Barron's Educational Series, 1998.
Harvey, Carol P. and Allard, M. June. Understanding Diversiy: Readings, Cases, and Exercises. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers, 1995.
Kuga, Lillian A. Communicating in a Diverse Workplace: A Practical Guide to Successful Workplace Communication Techniques. Chang Associates, 1996.
Simons, George; Crisp, Michael; and Mapson, Ralph. Working Together: Succeeding in a Multicultural Organization. Crisp Publications, 1994.
For more information, search by the keyword "ESL" in amazon.com, barnesnoble.com, or the Web in general.