SPEAKER 1: We've now discussed speaking and vocabulary strategies for improving cross-cultural communication. But most interactions involve both speaking and listening. There are several things that you as a listener can do to better understand accented or non-native English. The first thing is to listen actively. Don't just pretend to understand something, but make sure that you do understand it. But do this politely.
You can do things like confirming that you understood correctly. We typically do this by taking part of the previous utterance and forming it into a question. So if someone is telling you where they're from, and you're not sure you understood correctly, you can confirm it by saying, you're from Mongolia? Asking a question about it.
Another thing that you can do is request clarification. This includes explicit questions, such as could you repeat that, or I don't understand. Or it could be taking a piece of what you did understand to get more information of what you were missing. You went where? Where are you from? So that you can fill in the gaps that you're missing.
Another technique is to give feedback with body language. If you're confused and you look confused, hopefully the person you're talking with will pick up on that and reexplain or reword what they're saying. You can also nod or agree if you are understanding to give them a signal.
Another thing you can do is to focus on what you can understand. Don't get too flustered or upset about missing any one individual word. But if you get the general meaning or if you understand some words, use those to form a question to further clarify what the person is saying.
You can also ask for repetition. Usually people are happy to reword or rephrase or reexplain what they mean, because they want to be understood. Another thing to keep in mind is that non-native speakers can usually comprehend more than they can produce. So if they're struggling with pronouncing a word or they can't quite think of the right vocabulary, they might recognize that if you supply it for them, and they will probably understand what you're saying even if they can't produce it.
Finally, you can respond more empathically. When I surveyed my own students about what native speakers can do, a lot of them said that your attitude or behavior really helps. One of my students had a great quote. He said, I've always found that people with a lot of experience in foreign countries are easy to communicate with.
If you've been in that situation, if you know how frustrating it is to try to communicate in a different language, or to not be understood in a different situation, you tend to be more sympathetic to a non-native speaker. So think about putting yourself in their shoes. Be patient. Demonstrate a willingness to communicate with them. Don't look nervous. Try to relax, and they'll try to relax. Smile, use welcoming body language, and be more understanding.
You can also openly address the issue. It's OK to discuss language and culture differences, particularly at a place like Cornell. This campus is a great opportunity to interact with a lot of different people from different backgrounds and cultures. You can meet new people and learn from each other.
Another one of my students told me once that he likes it when a native speaker shows enthusiasm about mutual learning, not that he or she is doing him a favor by talking with him. So be willing to explore and share with a non-native speaker, and you can also benefit from that interaction.
We've now discussed several listening, speaking, and vocabulary issues to keep in mind during cross-cultural communication. Now let's take a closer look at mainstream North American English to see what makes this such a difficult language to learn, and what some common pronunciation difficulties are for non-native speakers.
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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 4 of 6 in the Watch Your Language series.