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发布时间:2020-09-14 17:42:07 来源:网络 阅读量:

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It was just one word in one email, but it triggered huge financial losses for a multinational company.


The message, written in English, was sent by a native speaker to a colleague for whom English was a second language. Unsure of the word, the recipient found two contradictory meanings in his dictionary. He acted on the wrong one.


Months later, senior management investigated why the project had flopped, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. “It all traced back tothis one word,” says Chia Suan Chong, a UK-based communications skills and intercultural trainer, who didn't reveal the tricky word because it is highly industry-specific and possibly identifiable. “Things spiralled out of control because both parties were thinking the opposite.”

数月后,该跨国公司的高管开始调查这个项目失败并损失数十万美元的原因。庄贾萱(Chia Suan Chong)是一名交际技能和跨文化培训师,供职于一家总部设在英国的机构,她说:“所有的线索都指向这个单词”。庄贾萱没有透露具体是哪个棘手的单词,因为该单词是某行业专用词汇,透露该单词可能暴露这家跨国公司的身份。她还说:“由于双方的理解截然相反,导致事件失控。”

When such misunderstandings happen, it’s usually the native speakers who are to blame. Ironically, they are worse at delivering their message than people who speak English as a second or third language, according to Chong.


“A lot of native speakers are happy that English has become the world’s global language. They feel they don’t have to spend time learning another language,” says Chong.


The non-native speakers, it turns out, speak more purposefully and carefully, typical of someone speaking a second or third language. Anglophones, on the other hand, often talk too fast for others to follow, and use jokes, slang and references specific to their own culture, says Chong.


“The native English speaker… is the only one who might not feel the need to accommodate or adapt to the others,” she adds.


With non-native English speakers in the majority worldwide, it’s Anglophones who may need to up their game.


“Native speakers are at a disadvantage when you are in a lingua franca situation,” where English is being used as a common denominator, says Jennifer Jenkins, professor of global Englishes at the UK’s University of Southampton. “It’s the native English speakers that are having difficulty understanding and making themselves understood.”

詹尼弗·詹金斯(Jennifer Jenkins)是英国南安普敦大学的全球英语教授,她说:“母语各不相同的人在一起用英语作为通用语沟通时,英语母语人士处于不利的境地,因为他们难以理解他人,也很难让他人理解自己。”

Non-native speakers generally use more limited vocabulary and simpler expressions, without flowery language or slang. And then there’s cultural style, Zurich-based Micheal Blattner says. When a Brit reacts to aproposal by saying, “That’s interesting” a fellow Brit mightrecognise this as understatement for, “That’s rubbish.” But other nationalities would take the word “interesting” on face value, he says.

非英语母语人士讲英语时,常用数量有限的词汇和简单的表达方式,不花哨,也不夹带俚语。此外,在瑞士苏黎世工作的迈克尔·布拉特纳(Micheal Blattner)认为,还有文化的因素。比如,一个英国人评论一项提议时会说“That’s interesting”(“很有趣”),此时,另一个英国人会把这句话把理解为“很垃圾”的含蓄说法,而其他国家的人则只会取“interesting”(有趣)的字面意思理解。

“English speakers with no other language often have a lack ofawareness of how to speak English internationally.”


In Berlin, Coulter saw German staff of a Fortune 500 company being briefed from their Californian HQ via video link. Despite being competent in English, the Germans gleaned only the gist of what their American project leader said. So among themselves they came up with an agreed version, which might or might not have been what was intended by the California staff.


“Too many non-Anglophones, especially the Asians and the French, are too concerned about not ‘losing face’ — and nod approvingly while not getting the message at all,” he says.


That’s why Nerriere devised Globish— a distilled form of English, stripped down to 1,500 words and simple but standard grammar. “It’s not a language, it’s a tool,” he says. Since launching Globish in 2004 he’s sold more than 200,000 Globish text books in 18 languages.


“If you can communicate efficiently with limited, simple language you save time, avoid misinterpretation and you don’t have errors in communication,” Nerriere says.


When trying to communicate in English with a group of people with varying levels of fluency, it’s important to be receptive and adaptable, tuning your ears into a whole range of different ways of using English, Jenkins says.


“People who’ve learned other languages are good at doing that, but native speakers of English generally are monolingual and not very good at tuning into language variation,” she says.


In meetings, Anglophones tend to speed along at what they consider a normal pace, and also rush to fill gaps in conversation, according to Steggles.


He recommends making the same point in a couple of different ways and asking for some acknowledgement, reaction or action.




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