You’re already a native English speaker so you have the world at the tip of your tongue, right? Wrong. If you think you can simply kick back and approach language learning as a quaint pastime you’re already miles behind the rest of the world.
Speaking English natively may present many issues for communicating with those who speak English as a second, third or fourth language. It’s all about clarity. Native English speakers may use slang, idioms and make cultural references without realising how unclear their message is. On the other hand, non-native speakers speak more purposefully and carefully. Their ability to accommodate the needs of another non-native English speaker comes from their enhanced knowledge of languages. Anglophones need to up their game to make sure they are being understood.
Native English speakers must take care to learn more about their own language. And the best way to learn about your native language is to learn another language. Because when you learn another language, particularly in the beginning, you use simple expressions without the use of flamboyant words. With basic language skills you are forced to focus on communicating your message as clearly as possible. Not only this, but you should become more aware of the power of your words.
This is critical in British English, for instance, where native speakers use certain phrases, which at face value mean something different to the more nuanced intended meaning. A common example of which is when somebody asks ‘how are you?’ and a British native speaker might reply ‘not bad’ – with the intended meaning being ‘I am well’, but often misinterpreted as a negative response. This article highlights some other common confusions particularly in relation to British English.
Whilst it is fun to point out the peculiarity of native English speakers and their sometimes bizarre modes of communication, it is important to remember that it is time to adapt. In order to be properly understood it is important to be clear, direct and sympathetic to your listener without patronising them. And this can only really be understood when you too have been in this position attempting to speak a foreign language. So don’t just ‘bear it in mind’ (see here for translation) and see how we can help you to learn another language.