STEPHANIE HANSON: Hello, my name is Stephanie Hanson. I'm going to be speaking with you today about strategies for improving communication with non-native speakers of English. You probably interact with non-native speakers on a regular basis. International classmates, instructors, or coworkers, maybe your neighbors are from another country. Maybe a sales clerk you see every week at your local store is a recent immigrant. Maybe your office works with sister branches in other countries. Chances are you interact with a variety of people every month, every week, maybe every day, who are not native speakers of English.
Before I go any further, I should take a minute to explain what I mean by non-native English speaker. This isn't so easy to define because every non-native speaker will have different strengths and weaknesses in his or her English. The most obvious definition is someone who speaks a language other than English. Someone who, as an infant, learned a different language as his or her first language, and then later in life began learning English.
Usually such a person will speak English with an accent. Generally the older you are when you start to learn a language, the more accented your speech will be. However, there are exceptions. If someone starts learning English at a very young age, he or she will probably sound like a native speaker, but technically isn't. On the other hand, I also know someone who didn't start learning English until she was a teenager. One would expect her to retain an accent, but she sounds like a native speaker. People are always surprised to learn she didn't grow up in the US. In general, many English learners will retain an accent that marks them as non-native speakers.
Another factor to consider in defining non-native speaker, is the increasing number of world Englishes. Different varieties of English have differing norms for pronunciation, for grammar, and for vocabulary. You may perceive some varieties as more standard than others. And you may find it difficult to understand English speakers who use a nonstandard variety of English, or who speak in a dialect or accent you're not familiar with. English really is an international language. In fact, there are now more non-native speakers of English in the world than there are native speakers of English.
Throughout this study room, I'm going to use the term non-native speaker to encompass all of these possible situations. Whether the person you communicate with has a strong accent or none at all, you'll be able to use many strategies from this study room to improve your communication with people from different cultures. In this study room, I'm going to be sharing several strategies you can use to improve and facilitate communication with non-native speakers of English.
First, we'll be discussing speaking strategies that you can employ while you are talking. Then I'll explain some vocabulary issues that you should keep in mind. Next I'll present some listening tips to help you better understand when a non-native speaker is talking to you. I'll then give a brief overview of some of the more challenging aspects of English pronunciation that can make this such a difficult language for non-native speakers to speak. Finally, I'll highlight some cultural factors that can lead to confusion or misunderstandings when interacting with someone cross-culturally and cross-linguistically.
Throughout this lecture, I'm going to concentrate on spoken communication of mainstream North American English. Because I'm at Cornell, and many of you watching this have connections to Cornell, I'll be focusing on oral communication in an academic or professional setting. While this most certainly applies to interactions with international students, faculty, staff, and visiting scholars, you'll find several of these topics applicable to other interactions you may have with non-native speakers including travel abroad for study, conference attendance, meetings, or even vacation.
In our increasingly globalized world, it's becoming more and more common to interact with people who speak English as a second or third or fourth language. Communication, being a social interaction, involves give and take from all participants. Let's start exploring things that you can do to help that interaction go more smoothly.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this request.
In this Cybertower Study Room, join Stephanie Hanson to learn how to improve our communication with non-native English speakers, explore listening and speaking strategies, and learn about common English difficulties and cultural factors. You'll also hear viewpoints from some international students at Cornell.
Cornell University is committed to providing high-quality education for all students, and the Center for Teaching Excellence's International Teaching Assistant Program plays a vital role in that commitment.
This video 1 of 6 in the Watch Your Language series.