My long experience with living and travelling abroad has shown me that when in other countries, most people don’t behave quite the way they would do at home. For the most part, people are courteous and perhaps a bit more introverted than usual when speaking new languages in new places (I know I am). Unfortunately, though, I have seen a lot of people act in obnoxious and entitled ways when they don’t think they are being understood. These reactions may be a reflection of frustration, or just simply ignorance. I’ve seen people yelling in English at people who clearly don’t understand, although no doubt they understand the general meaning of the rant, and because the person being yelled at is usually a service person, they are too polite to yell back in their own language.
I tend to err on the side of caution when I am in confrontational situations, as I don’t want my tone of voice or random hand gesture to be misconstrued by the other person. The last thing I want is to end up in an enormous argument where I don’t understand most of what’s going on. The downside of this attitude, though, is that things that I might have complained about at home (e.g. poor service or undercooked food) often get accepted because I don’t want to go through the hassle of trying to explain, and I don’t want to be seen as ‘that guy’ that everyone in the restaurant looks at.
What’s your attitude when it comes to complaints or arguments?
In order to help aid workers more effectively help the millions of people in Japan affected by the earthquake, Simon and Schuster’s Pimsleur have made Japanese language content available for free.
Pimsleur has been a popular language learning method for over 45 years, and they base their courses solely on audio content and repetition. Pimsleur is offering the first 16 units of their basic Japanese course (8 hours of audio) for free download until the end of June. Click here for information on how to download the lessons.
Pimsleur also made available their lessons in Haitian Creole after last year’s massive earthquake in Haiti. Over 6000 people took advantage of the opportunity.
No doubt more people will download the lessons for Japanese, and even if you aren’t directly helping, learning a bit of the language may help to bring you closer to the country, or help you understand Japanese news.
Source: Centre Daily Times.
We all know that there are some pretty weird and specific phobias out there, like asymmetriphobia, the irrational fear of things that aren’t symmetrical. I didn’t know that there were so many related to language, though. I had heard of hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia – the totally unfair name for the fear of long words – but a few unknown ones caught my eye today.
There are some sort of general ones, like:
Verbophobia - the fear of words.
Logophobia – the fear of words or speaking.
Graphophobia – the fear of writing or handwriting.
Then there are some quite specific ones:
Onomatophobia - the fear of hearing a certain word or name (often to do with connotations or superstitions).
Scriptophobia - the fear of writing in public (perhaps due to not liking their own handwriting, or not being confident in their ability to spell correctly?).
The ones that we, as language learners, should definitely try to avoid are xenoglossophobia (the fear of foreign languages) and glossophobia (the fear of speaking in public or of trying to speak).
Do you know of any more language-related phobias?
I’ve found that even when I’m speaking with other native English speakers, I modify my lexicon depending on my knowledge of them. When I am speaking to people who aren’t from New Zealand, I usually, by default, drop all the Kiwi slang I might use at home (dairy, jandals, bro, choice), and speak in a very generic English. When I can, I use words that the listener is familiar with, just to avoid any misunderstandings (e.g. using restroom or lavatory instead of toilet). When speaking to Americans, saying trunk instead of boot makes communication smoother (not that I really ever have to say those words in conversation).
Recently, I had an English house guest, and found myself even changing my pronunciation of some words so that there were no halts in the conversation. I started saying yoggit instead of yo-git, which feels entirely unnatural to me. I don’t know if I did it to avoid letting someone else feel superior (a post-colonial instinct, maybe?), or just so we wouldn’t have to discuss such a silly difference.
It doesn’t really matter though, as apparently she thought my accent sounded American. I can’t win.
Do you find yourself changing your words or your pronunciation with different audiences?