“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.”
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.
I’ve been thinking about this post all day, and the article glosses over one important detail. All of the “native English speakers” the article mentions belong to the same niche demographic: white collar/corporate professionals
English corporate speak is it’s own fucked up dialect.
It’s so incomprehensible and exclusionary that even a native English speaker with a master’s degree in English will have difficulty parsing it. Trust me when I say that nobody who isn’t a business major knows what the fuck “synergy” means.
And the jargon’s just half the problem. The other half is the gross overuse of hobby-specific expressions and analogies.
Go to most corporate offices and you’ll be bombarded with sports analogies that only make sense to someone who spends all their free time watching ESPN.
I tracked down this quote I read in a tumblr post years ago:
“I remember working with a law school in which white men heavily dominated the faculty. They used lots of sports metaphors (doing an end run, Monday morning quarterbacking, and so on), with legal jargon thrown in for good measure. I suggested that this was not a particularly welcoming trait in their school, that in fact it was sexist, but they paid little attention. I made my point by speaking for about five minutes in dressmaking terms: putting a dart in here, a gusset there, cutting the budget on the bias so it would be more flexible, using a peplum to hide a course that might be controversial. The women in the room laughed; the men did not find it humorous….Language is power, make no mistake about it. It is used to include and exclude and to keep people and systems in their places.”
– Frances E. Kendall, Understanding White Privilege
My point is,
This kind of poor communication probably shouldn’t be blamed on monolingualism alone. It’s most certainly made worse by an exclusionary and elitist work culture.
You’ll probably encounter far fewer communication issues talking to a cashier at a tourist trap than you will talking to a lawyer or a stockbroker.
assuming it’s other people’s job to understand you, instead of your job to make yourself understood, is characteristic of people with unexamined and unchecked privilege.