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Language Barrier Etiquette

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Pen^2:
Don't get huffy if people don't understand your attempts at speaking their language. If you only know a few words or aren't overly familiar with the language, then there is a fair chance that although to you, what you say might sound perfectly identical to how native speakers say it, to an ear which is more attuned to the differences between the phenomes of the language in question, you might be quite incomprehensible. Tonal languages are a great example of this.

I've seen people become irate at Japanese people for not understanding what "toe-kay-owe" is, and I once had to witness a poor boy in an ESL class be scolded harshly by his teacher for ignoring him, when actually the boy honestly just didn't realise his name was being called because to him it sounded completely different.

On that note, try to get people's names right. If it's a foreign name, then there's a decent chance that it will involve sounds or combinations of sounds that you aren't used to, so it follows that you'll need to make more effort to get it right. Don't convert the name to syllables in your own language: that isn't what their name is. "Jose", for example, isn't often going to be pronounced "Joe-say" or "Joes", despite the fact that in English the spelling makes it appear that these pronunciations might be correct. Mangling people's names is not a polite thing to do. Few people will be offended if you ask them if you're saying their name correctly, but will appreciate the effort.

whiskeytangofoxtrot:
I used to do safety training for groups of landscape and maintenance personnel for whom English wasn't the primary language. I tried as often as possible to work with a bilingual person from the group acting as interpreter, talking directly to the audience, but pausing frequently to let the interpreter do their part, too. Not using terminology that's too technical or clinical helps a lot, but most of these guys preferred plain-spokenness to techno-babble anyhow, and so do I. It took a little longer, but we made it work pretty well, I think.

AnaMaria:

--- Quote from: whiskeytangofoxtrot on September 09, 2013, 05:59:12 PM ---I used to do safety training for groups of landscape and maintenance personnel for whom English wasn't the primary language. I tried as often as possible to work with a bilingual person from the group acting as interpreter, talking directly to the audience, but pausing frequently to let the interpreter do their part, too. Not using terminology that's too technical or clinical helps a lot, but most of these guys preferred plain-spokenness to techno-babble anyhow, and so do I. It took a little longer, but we made it work pretty well, I think.

--- End quote ---

That's a huge one: if you are speaking through an interpreter, always speak directly to the listener and then pause to let the interpreter fill in.  It's a waste of your breath to tell the interpreter "Tell them I said..." and it's insulting to refuse to speak directly to the listeners. 

whiskeytangofoxtrot:
Absolutely!

Ereine:
This is aimed at non-native English speakers, as strange as it sounds, but not everyone speaks English. I've heard that a common complaint from people who are learning Finnish (and I think that it happens in other countries too) is that if they're trying to speak Finnish, people start speaking English to them, regardless of if they actually even speak English. I think that part of it is impatience with speak to someone who's still learning, not understanding and speaking the only foreign language many people can speak and wanting to practice their English but it can be difficult to for example an African refugee who may know French but no English.

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