圆角望 / 杂闻 / 【BBC】以英语为母语的人是世界上最糟糕的...




2017-02-16  圆角望






本文选自 BBC




Native Englsih Speakers Are the World's Worst Communicators


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 to this 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.”

一个月后,上级调查了项目失败并巨额亏损的原因。“起因就是因为这一个词,事情失去控制,因为双方理解了相反的意思。” Chia Suan Chong表示。她是英国一位跨文化交流技能培训员,由于具有行业特殊性和识别性,她并没有透露具体是哪个单词。

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. “But… often you have a boardroom full of people from different countries communicating in English and all understanding each other and then suddenly the American or Brit walks into the room and nobody can understand them.”

Chong 说,“很多英语母语者对于英语成为世界通用语言很高兴,因为他们觉得这样就不用再花时间学别的语言了。通常,如果屋子里都是一群来自世界各地的人用英语交流,他们都能理解对方,但这时如果突然进来一个英国人或者美国人,大家就都听不懂他/她在说什么了。”

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. In emails, they use baffling abbreviations such as ‘OOO’, instead of simply saying that they will be out of the office.


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


Relating to your audience


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.”Non-native speakers generally use more limited vocabulary and simpler expressions, without flowery language or slang. Because of that, they understand one another at face value. Jenkins found, for instance, that international students at a British university understood each other well in English and swiftly adapted to helping the least fluent members in any group.

英国南安普顿大学研究世界英语的教授Jennifer Jenkins 表示,英语作为全球通用语言,“其母语使用者在混合语言环境中反而处于劣势。他们很难理解别人的意思,也很难让别人理解自己。”非母语者通常会使用有限的词汇和简单的表达,而非花哨的修辞或俚语。正因为如此,他们能理解对方明显想要表达的意思。例如,Jenkins发现在英国大学里,国际学生能用英语很好地交流并很快开始帮助组里语言不那么流利的成员。

‘What the hell is ETA?’


Zurich-based Michael Blattner’s mother tongue is Swiss-German, but professionally he interacts mostly in English. “I often hear from non-native colleagues that they do understand me better when listening to me than when doing so to natives,” says the head of training and proposition, IP Operations at Zurich Insurance Group.

苏黎世的Michael Blattner是苏黎世保险集团知识产权运营部门的首席培训员,他以瑞士德语为母语,但在专业交流上主要还是用英语。他说“我经常听那些英语非母语的同事告诉我,相比于理解英语母语者,他们能更好地理解我说的话。”

One bugbear is abbreviations.


“The first time I worked in an international context somebody said ‘Eta 16:53’ and I thought ‘What the hell is ETA?’,” says Blattner. “To add to the confusion, some of the abbreviations in British English are very different from American English.”

Blattner说:“当我第一次在一家国际背景的公司中工作时,有人在邮件里说‘ETA:16:53’,我当时想的是ETA是什么鬼? 更糟糕的是,有一些缩写在英式英语和美式英语中有不同的意思。”

注:ETA= Estimated time of arrival,预计到达时间.

And then there’s cultural style, Blattner says. When a Brit reacts to a proposal by saying, “That’s interesting” a fellow Brit might recognise this as understatement for, “That’s rubbish.” But other nationalities would take the word “interesting” on face value, he says.

还有就是文化风格的差异,布拉特表示。当一个英国人评论某项提案“That’s interesting。”,真正的英国人可能会意识到这句话的意思是“那个提案就是一个垃圾。”但是其他国籍的人可能会仅仅从字面上理解“有趣”这个词。

Unusual words, speed of talking and mumbling don’t help, he adds — especially if the phone or video connection is poor quality. “You start disengaging and doing something else because there isn’t any chance of understanding,” he says.


At meetings, he adds, “typically, native English speakers dominate about 90% of the time. But the other people have been invited for a reason.”

他补充道:“在会议上,英语母语者的发言要占据90%的时间。但其他人被邀请都是有原因的。 ”

Dale Coulter, head of English at language course provider TLC International House in Baden, Switzerland, agrees: “English speakers with no other language often have a lack of awareness of how to speak English internationally.”

来自瑞士巴登TLC国际语言学校的英语课程主任 Dale Coulter赞同这种说法:“那些不会说其他语言的英语母语使用者,通常缺少如何更国际化使用英语的意识。”

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.


“A lot of the information goes amiss,” Coulter says.


When simpler is better


It’s the native speaker who often risks missing out on closing a deal, warns Frenchman Jean-Paul Nerriere, formerly a senior international marketing executive at IBM.

IBM 前国际市场部高级执行官,来自法国的Jean-Paul Nerriere 警告说:“英语母语使用者,在沟通时经常会有丧失商机的风险。”

“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.

这就是为什Nerriere 设计了世界语——一种英语的精简形式,将词汇量降低到1500个同时又拥有简单而完善的语法体系。他说:“这不是一种语言,它其实是一种工具。”。 自从世界语2004年出版以来,他已经卖出了用18种语言编写的超过20万本教材书籍。 

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


As an Englishman who’s worked hard to learn French, Rob Steggles, senior marketing director for Europe at telecommunications giant NTT Communications, has advice for Anglophones. Based in Paris, Steggles says, “you need to be short, clear and direct and you need to simplify. But there’s a fine line between doing that and being patronising.”

Rob Steggles 现在是欧洲电信巨头NTT的高级营销总监,作为一个努力学习法语的英国人,他对英语母语使用者提出了一些建议。 Steggles说:“就在巴黎而言,你需要尽量简短、清晰、直接地表达你的需求。但是这一点和趾高气昂地说话是有明显的界限的。”

“It’s a tightrope walk,” he adds.


Giving others a chance


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 in to 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.

根据Steggles 的说法:“在会议中,英语母语使用者倾向于使用他们认为正常的语速进行交流,并且急于填补对话中的空白。” 

“It could be that the non-native speaker is trying to formulate a sentence,” he says. “You just have to wait a heartbeat and give them a chance. Otherwise, after the meeting they come up and say, ‘What was all that about?’ Or they walk away and nothing happens because they haven’t understood.”


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


“If there’s no participation,' Steggles cautions, “you don’t know whether you’ve been understood or not.”



英国广播公司 (BBC),成立于1922年,是英国最大的新闻广播机构,也是世界最大的新闻广播机构之一。在相当长的一段时间内BBC一直垄断着英国的电视、电台。在1955年独立电视台和1973年独立电视台成立之前,BBC一直是英国唯一的电视、电台广播公司。


1、lingua franca


Native speakers are at a disadvantage when you are in a lingua franca situation, where English is being used as a common denominator.



n. 共性,共同特征,标准,衡量的尺度。


n. 使人烦恼的东西,难题。

One bugbear is abbreviations.





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