Home Forums Discussion Board Discussion 2.2 – Misunderstandings in ELF Contexts

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    • #2327
      admin adminadmin

      In trying to think of relevant examples, I remembered separate instances in which in first time interactions with a friend from New Zealand I was a bit thrown by the question “How are you going?” (“um, what, where…?”), and in the UK by the “You alright?” question. Both essentially mean “how are you?” but the use of ‘going’ in the NZ English question, and asking someone whether they are alright, did not quite land well with me, a user of L2 English mostly used to American varieties. However, some negotiation of meaning (I love this term) was certainly helpful in clarifying the questions and soon made me realize the person asking “You alright?” wasn’t particularly worried about my well being. 🙂

      To view past replies go to: https://changingenglishes.proboards.com/thread/12/misunderstandings-elf-contexts

      • This topic was modified 3 years ago by admin adminadmin.
    • #3467

      I agree with admin when I stayed in NZ, people asked me how are you going? I am thinking about where I am going to today.
      Actully not that question means how are you?
      when I were in UK, people said you’re alright? I often think about health issue but it means how are you as well.Now I know both questions mean how are you?
      It is wonderful for me to be in ELF contexts because its lot of help to understand their English and communicate correct meaning with them.

    • #3737

      culture differences, for example, in my country we used to kiss the old people hands as a kind of respect.

    • #4085

      I think it is very much important to know the cultural differences and the context whenever we communicate. Communicators must adjust when it is needed so that we can understand the message fully.
      Whenever I teach my students in the university, I always remind them that there are words that can be used in a informal setting but not in a formal setting. They also need to consider the culture, age and upbringing to avoid misconception.

    • #4194

      Once in a workshop for English teachers, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, there was this confusion of a ‘goma green’ colour saree worn by a particular participant , when the admiration came from the resource person, an American lady that it was a nice saree and someone in the audience said that it was ‘goma green’. Later on, the issue was settled by the explanation that this was a Sri Lankan English compound, the word ‘goma’ being associated with ‘ cow dung’, and it’s a version of green. But surprisingly this didn’t hinder the communication process.

    • #4219

      Cultural difference is among the factor that influence the use of language. When I asked my students to translate indonesian to English, they tend to transslate the litteral word to word translation. For example:
      Jangan buang samapah sembarangan (do not littering), they translate as “Do not throw the waste anywhere”

    • #4531
      Dauda PikawiDauda Pikawi

      If I may ask, can accommodation by the English NS help in ELF? This I think can also connect entire English language speech community.

    • #4714

      Share here any interesting examples of misunderstandings in ELF contexts, either involving native speakers or solely between non-native speakers. To what extent were they language-based? Do you recall how they were resolved?

      ELF context defines a context where English language uses as a lingua franca. In Sri Lanka, English language also utilizes as a lingua franca between Tamil and Sinhala ethnic groups. Furthermore, when foreigners come to our country, we tend to use English as a lingua franca language in order to explain them the food items and certain terms which are unique to Sri Lankans. For instance, “Ayubowan”, “Kiribath – Milk rice and etc.

    • #4747

      I have had so many different experiences with this!

      I think the one that stands out the most was a situation that arose a few different times. I teach English in an international school for adults in San Diego, and I mostly prepare European (occasionally Asian, South American, and Saudi) students for the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) exam offered by Cambridge University ESOL. We do a lot of exam practice as part of the course, and we have one listening exercise where we listen to an Australian English speaker talking about a sheep herding contest for dogs. The speaker is talking about how the dogs can lose points in the contest, and he says “If a dog turns away from the sheep, we call that ‘turning tail’.” In the Australian accent, “tail” sounds a heck of a lot like the way an American would pronounce the word “tile” and the students often write “tile” instead of “tail” and miss that question.

      From this experience, I learned to advise my students who want to take such standardized exams to listen to as many speakers of English as they can.

    • #5198

      In South Korea, the word ‘theme’ has become part of Korean vocabulary. However, it is pronounced ‘tem-ma’. The first time I heard this I did not understand. It has now become a useful point to discuss in class.

    • #5245

      Even within the English language, there are differences that native speakers cannot understand.

    • #5265

      Q: ELF misunderstanding
      Being a user of British English, I have quite often encountered misunderstandings with a friend of mine from Taiwan who is a user of American English. For instance, she would say: I like your pants = meaning trousers. Additionally, such words as crisps, queue, rubber caused a certain degree of misunderstanding.

      However, I would like to pose a question related to the speech pattern used by Yoda, the Jedi master, in the Star Wars films. Example: ‘I’m looking for someone,’ Luke says. ‘Looking?’’ Yoda replies. ‘Found someone, you have, I would say, hmmm?’ Would you consider Yoda speaks ELF?

    • #5278

      The word ´´notebook in portuguese means computer, and the same word in english means other object. So all of us, have to pay attention when we are speaking with this word.

    • #5286

      Interestingly, all languages have characters and even their own features will define the persons’ way of using the language. As we consider the English language here, we can see that culture plays an important role in shaping one’s words and expressions. sometimes what comes as unnatural and wrong in languages, is mainly relevant to the concept of the people themselves who own the language and nurture it with their own culture, beliefs, and so on. So we as educators and learners of languages should be enthusiastic about knowing and familiarizing ourselves with different varieties which leads to more intelligibility.

    • #5295

      Constantly evolving language. Dialects can differ so much even natives cannot understand each other.

    • #5321

      ‘ow do in Yorkshire means How are you?
      aye means yes
      lug’ole means earhole
      cake’ole means mouth
      put wood in’t hole means close the door
      it’s monkeys outside means it’s very cold outside
      it’s baltic outside also means very cold outside
      bevvy means beverage (alkoholic)
      Tyke means Yorkshireman
      lass means girl
      wee means little
      our lass means our girl
      mortal means drunk
      legless also means drunk
      up the duff means pregnant
      Scouse means a person from Liverpool

      Should I continue? 😉

    • #5397

      Share here any interesting examples of misunderstandings in ELF contexts, either involving native speakers or solely between non-native speakers. An inner circle context, I recall some of the IATEFL delegates meeting in Glasgow and Liverpool had quite a tough time understanding some of the conference volunteers (from the area)!

      To what extent were they language-based? Do you recall how they were resolved? Various differences in the phonology and lexis were probably challenging. Communication was effected by referring to the context, in the hear and now.

    • #5442

      Idioms are often misunderstood and misinterpreted. However, when ELF tend to accomodate English when speaking. However, accents vary and therefore can interrupt comprehension.

    • #5481

      Collocations, idiomatic language as well as the absence of certain phonemes in certain languages may cause problems with the intelligibility, comprehensibility and interpretability.

    • #5516
      Saul SantosSaul Santos

      I studied an MA in Mexico and classes were both in English and Spanish, Spanish is my first language and it was the first language of half of the students (and professors) in my class, English was the first language of the other half. When class discussiones were in English, I don’t remember having faced any sort of misunderstanding, I remember being very confident using English. I suppose being in my country provided with a stronger sense of ownership of both languages. A couple of years later I went to England to study, and things were totally different: when I first arrived and had to talk with local people, I always had the feeling that I did not speak Enlgish, tha I did not own the language. I was more successful to deal with transactional interactions than with interpersonal interactions, somehow the former are more predictable, so I was usually able to guess the meaning. After a while locals became more intelligible to me.

    • #5567

      More than twenty years ago, I once noticed a German girl I knew had something on her forehead, so I pointed that out to her. She replied: “harsh!”, or so I thought. What she meant was “ash”, meaning she had ash on her forehead because it was Ash Wednesday (a Christian religious celebration) and she had just come back from church. I guess in this case the misunderstanding depended half on her pronunciation/my not comprehending it and half on our different cultural backgrounds.

    • #5594

      I often find that my students find it easier to understand English usage from people when using English as a lingua franca, for example, Spanish native speakers with Italian native speakers or Colombian native speakers with Polish native speakers. This could be because native speakers speak with an accent and use a lot of assimilation and elision whereas EFL learners are trying to master a more standardised English. In Bristol, UK, EFL learners struggle with the local accent because of omissions (o and t sounds) and also changes to vowel sounds (time may sound like “toime”). Therefore, more exposure to authentic native speakers should take place so that lessons have the practical element of immediate application in the real world. These issues can only be resolved by more exposure to different accents and education about the features of specific accents.

    • #5731
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    • #6678

      In the few examples I can recall, the misunderstanding wasn’t so much caused by the language, but by awareness of cultural differences. For instance, during an English session, a classmate used the phrase ‘With all due respect…’ before asking a question. His intention was to be polite, however, it was perceived the other way around by the teacher. So, more than language, it is essential to be aware of our interlocutor’s cultural use of the language when interacting.
      Finally, the second example that comes to mind is the use of the word ‘hate’, which is ‘odio/odiar’ in Spanish. In Chile, we use ‘hate’ often on our daily talks, and it simply means we do not like something. However, it seems that for British English speakers ‘hate’ is a very strong word, so the use of that word by a Chilean English speaker might result in a misunderstanding.

    • #7229
      Trang NguyenTrang Nguyen

      “how do you do”. Thought that is a question until i realized the way to answer it is “how do you do”

    • #7460

      Instances of misunderstandings often arise, involving both native speakers and solely between non-native speakers. These misinterpretations stem from diverse linguistic backgrounds, differing accents, and varying cultural norms. Whether it’s a colloquial phrase that gets lost in translation or a mispronunciation leading to unintended humor, these moments highlight the intricacies of communication in a globalized world. Such misunderstandings underscore the importance of effective communication strategies, encouraging mutual respect and adaptability while embracing the richness that linguistic diversity brings to our interactions

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