There are many reasons for communication breakdown. Most times it is because of simple mechanics,things like pronunciation and grammar.Instead of getting into all the minor details of these things—we’ll save that for other classes—today, we’ll just look at 4 major reasons why people can’t understand your English. Don’t worry, I’ll include some simple suggestions for you to improve.
My friend told me an interesting story about an exchange he had with one person before. This person was saying how he, in his hometown, took a shipacross a river. This left my friend confused. Why? Because he meant to say “ship” but he was saying “sheep”. My friend was wondering, “How the heck do you take a sheep across a river? Like do you ride it?”
Needless to say, my friend quickly realized the mix up and understood that his friend took a “ship”, and not a “sheep”, across the river.
Suggestion: Practice your listening skills.What? Yeah, really. Training your ear is half the battle when it comes to pronunciation. If you can hear it, you can say it—in most cases. Occasionally, you’ll have to look up the actual way a sound is made in your mouth. Do that, for sure, but for practicing your listening skills, I recommend listening to speeches slowly. Take the speed down to 80% or 90%. Every now and then try to imitate the speaker.
Every now and then I’ll have a student ask me a question. They’ll ask me something, and because I can’t hear them I say, “What?” Then they stop talking, or perhaps start talking to a friend to help them translate. Instead of repeating what they said again, they just stay silent. This happens frequently enough to be an issue in the classroom. All they really need to do is say what they said before but just a little LOUDER. Unfortunately, they are more afraid of making mistakes than trying to communicate their ideas, and that really is too bad. Are you this way?
Suggestion: Make your mistakes loudly. I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating. In fact, most of you already know this. But do you do it?
I hate this advice, haha. It applies to me when I speak Chinese. I prefer to mumble and hope that someone gets the main idea of what I want to say. Don’t do that. Make your mistakes nice and loud, especially with your teachers! They are there to teach you after all. Part of learning is getting correction. Correction means making what is wrong and into what is right. Don’t shy away from that.
I remember hearing a story about a guy who memorized an entire English dictionary. I initially thought, “Wow, what a waste of time.” Now, a few years later, I realize that although that example is extreme, it is not totally wrong. English does have quite a wide and broad vocabularly. For example, just right there in the previous sentence I used the words “wide” and “broad” to communicate an idea. Actually, I could have just chosen one of those words and would have still been able to communicate the idea I wanted to. However, it is useful to know connotations of words and know when to use the right word at the right time to get different senses or feelings communicated. English can be a very picky language. But first, what does the word connotation mean?
So, not only do you want to expand your vocabulary, but you also want to understand the connotation of words. How should you do that?
Suggestion: Read books! Any book! This is the best way. In fact, memorizing a dictionary or a word list is a great way to memorize definitions, but it’s usually a terrible way to learn word connotation. The best way to learn word connotation is to find words in their “natural habitat”. Where is that? In books. That means you should read a lot! When you find a word you don’t know, look up the definition and pay attention to the way it was used in that particular sentence or paragraph.
Lack of Confidence
A while back a friend introduced me a friend of his who was preparing for her graduate exam. She was a nice girl, but to be honest, she tested my patience a bit. How so? She wanted to practice her English but she was really, really shy. Now, I’m a teacher, so I know that I have to be extra patient with some people when speaking English. That’s fine. In this case, I chose to be patient and gracious, but it took some energy because she constantly chose to start speaking, then stop, then cover her face for a minute, and then after some coaxing and encouragement, she would start speaking again.
Some people might treat you this way. Bless their hearts, haha. Don’t expect most people to do that. I was doing this person a favor. However, naturally, I wouldn’t want to be friends with somebody who was always this way. Not because this person a bad person, but because this person takes away a lot of unnecessary energy. Her lack of confidence was draining. Generally, people don’t like to be around people who are hard to be around.
Things ended up well for her though, she became more confident and was more willing to speak up.
Suggestion: So, what is something you can do? Well often times, I find, that we feel the most insecure when we don’t understand what someone is telling or asking us. In this situation, I recommend that you do one thing: Ask, “Sorry, what do you mean?”
This is a great question. It shows that you don’t understand, but that you are listening. Also, it causes the other person to say their idea in a different, often more simple or direct way. It improves communication. Try it next time
Alright, that does it for this week. Those were a few reasons why people don’t understand your English. I hope those tips were helpful! Thanks for joining me this week.
Until next time…
美化排版 | TingGold
封面图片 | 谢淼淼
审核校对 | 张津