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Picture of Kalleh
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We had a group of Korean nurses in, and they brought a translator with them who told us they didn't understand English. Interestingly, they hadn't informed us of this. It means that you can deliver about half the presentation that you had intended because of the stopping to translate.

The speakers I had lined up were all very gracious and changed their presentations accordingly. They were all American speakers. Toward the end of the morning one of my scheduled speakers, while an American, was Chinese who spoke English with a Chinese accent. Suddenly our supposed "non-English understanding" guests could understand her! Their translator stopped and she proceeded with her entire 45 minute presentation with no translation. I was next, and clearly they needed less translation with me than they had at the beginning of the day when I presented, though they needed more translation than they did with our Chinese-American speaker.

What was going on?
 
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Possibly this. The whole video is good but watch especially from about 11;30

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcX2AwH3cG8
 
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Stress and linking were my first thoughts. Collocations is also a possibility.
 
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They may have learned English from Chinese teachers and were used to that accent. They all may have been less confident about their understanding spoken English, too.

Not sure I agree with the TED speaker, but it's just a gut reaction. All languages are sound-based in that they form words from sounds. They might not all be stress languages, but I have seen people speaking languages with accents and they are understood. Her spaghetti example could just be that the waiter was expecting some dish to be ordered and basketi sounds close enough to spaghetti. I have noticed that it takes a little while to get used to a non-native speaker's accent and eccentric grammar, and that some people never understand non-native speakers.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: zmježd,


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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quote:
It means that you can deliver about half the presentation that you had intended because of the stopping to translate.


For which everyone is eternally grateful Smile


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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Picture of BobHale
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quote:
Originally posted by zmježd:
Not sure I agree with the TED speaker,


Not sure I agree a 100% with her but my personal experience as en ESL teacher is that people who have learned English as a second language at different times and in different places, and who have no other language in common can communicate far better with each other than they can with native speakers.

And now I have a Chinese girlfriend whose English is pretty limited (though still about ten thousand times better than my Chinese) I'm running into it all the time. She can talk to other Chinese people in English and they understand each other but we are constantly resorting to the translation software on our telephones to communicate with each other.

I think the TED speaker overcomplicates it a bit but I agree with much of what she says. The truth is that when you learn a new language you learn subsets of the grammar and vocabulary and you need quite a small subset to be able to communicate providing the person you communicate with has the same subset. I understand (or at least I can work out) about 90% of what Teresa says and she understands about 5% of what I say. This is because I am working with the full grammar and vocabulary available and I don't know which bits of it are familiar to her.
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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Bob, it was an interesting TED. I think collocations and the accent, as well. I also think the confidence element must have been part of it since I spoke after our Chinese speaker, and they understood me better. However, to add another possible variable, I will admit that I am a lot more animated when I speak than the others who had spoken earlier were.

I did think that some of what Judy Thompson said must be seen in other languages, too, such as that it's a stress-based language or that words are pronounced differently than you'd expect (ie, the "can I have a bit of egg?).
 
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Picture of zmježd
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collocations

Every language I have ever studied has collocations.

The thing about ESL students being able to communicate is probably due to their limited vocabulary and uncomplicated sentence structures.

While we're at it, if some with an accent said "Gladful Jesus' birthday" and it was the month of December, I would understand what they were trying to say.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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I agree, z, and there were several examples like that that I'd have understood.
 
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