Why do we need to be on the ground? Part 4 – Communication

By | 25th August 2017

Beside lines of communications, another aspect of communicating is linked to verbal and non-verbal expressions.

On the verbal communication, the language that I communicate with is English (all countries I am going to are English-speaking countries). While English is the official language, very few people speak English as their native language… and there is a multitude of different languages…

So, we have a lot of different accents, expressions (translation of local expressions) that can make the English language more difficult to understand. How we learn English also has an influence on communication.

I was fortunate to learn English in England and while I am now fluent and do speak a fairly good English, I will never have the level of a native speaker… However, I have still learnt English in England.

There are sometimes expressions that are not natural to understand in a given country/region. And it is only the recurring exposure to it that allows a foreigner (regardless of home language) to understand. I have talked about my favourite one in a completely unrelated post (regarding time…), about expression of “urgency” in doing something. You need to be on the ground to understand it fully…

There are a number of other expressions or use of language that are disturbing at first. To start with, it gives the impression that the person you are talking to does not master the language. Or that they make a demand where they should not (but should rather make a request). Or that they are being rude. But then, exposure to others and immersion in the country show you that this is just the way in that area.

However, some are also individual ways, that you learn by being with people for a while. And so you adapt to how people express themselves. Those subtle ways cannot be learnt via remote communication. They come with experience of the other. And often includes the non-verbal communication that we miss when discussing online. Again, this is linking back to what I was saying in another post, and we experience the same with any one we communicate with… wherever we are and whatever we do…

It might be me, but cultures, history and personalities can be widely different from one village to the next. And my best way of learning people is to meet them in person. From there, the online communication will be easier to understand.

As an illustration, those are some expressions with which I had troubles at first, but that I have learnt to integrate in my “understanding” vocabulary:

Learn me = teach me
Borrow me = lend me
You should/must give me = please can you give me (I still struggle to understand it as a request and not a demand…)
Maybe you can = please can you (again, this one is sometimes difficult to understand as a request… but it all depends on who is making the request and how we learn to understand them and their expectations…)
His father is late = his father is deceased
Just now = later (see more on this one here)

‘Did you bring the tackle?’


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