Dans Le Monde Entier
Grâce Au Globish
Link to Presentation
"WORDS are the most powerful drug used by mankind (sic)" Rudyard Kipling.
Elizabeth Noble—THE ENNOBLER—can improve your communication.
In March 2009, I was an invited speaker at two European meetings where I learned just how much is lost with figures of speech used by those whose mother tongue is English.
The first International Congress of the Association of French Professional Speakers was held in Paris. The conference chair, Laurent Tylski requestedthat I speak about Globish, a concept developed by Jean-Paul Nerrière. I ordered his two books from a Paris bookstore since they were not available in the USA, and researched how Globish could help speakers and writers reach more people.
Globish ( "Global English") is M. Nerriere's answer to the challenges of idiomatic English. It is also an ingenious program to gain a basic command of English in 26 steps (named after the International Phonetic Alphabet...A/Alph; B/Bravo etc., until Z/Zulu) in one diligent hour per day. His web sites offer many resources for learning pronunciation and emphasis on the correct syllable which is critical in an accentuated language like English.
I enjoyed several exchanges with M. Nerriere in France as we polished my presentation. He was inspired to become a linguist after many years as IBM's international marketing chief in the USA. He noticed that non-anglophones would communicate happily among themselves until the British or American speaker began what was often a soporific monologue.
These foreign audiences were terrified to ask for clarification and generally were lulled into boredom, especially if the accent was difficult and the diction too fast.
During the first day of the conference in Paris, I made note of many figures of speech used by the British and North American presenters. Next, I asked French and other non-anglophone professional speakers sitting around me if they understood these idioms. Meanings that completely escaped them included: stuff, bunch, it's a snap, BandAid, pumped up and field day! BandAid caused confusion both literally and metaphorically! Knowing that a BandAid is a pansiment in French did not convey the point that the problem was tackled insufficiently.
I added this list to my talk the second day—these observations served perfectly to confirm the need for Globish.
The Association of Dutch Professional Speakers held their 2nd international conference in Antwerp, the Dutch- speaking part of Belgium. Having lived in Holland during 1966-67 I knew the Dutch generally speak very good English. My topic was Mastering English Idiom...the opposite of Globish!
However, after my experiences in Paris, and the opportunity to have my presentation reviewed by an Amsterdammer on the train to Antwerp, I decided Globish was the solution and the use of English idioms should be decreased. My talk then changed to ENNOBLE your ENGLISH—avoiding metaphors, idioms, jokes, abbreviations, slang and acronyms when addressing foreign audiences. Even if Dutch people understand more English figures of speech than do the French...some idioms will always muddy comprehension. Why risk being misunderstood?
Down in the dumps is a British idiom unfamiliar to Americans. The French would say il a le cafard—he has the cockroach! Such literal translations are not the answer! We have to consider a global audience, most of whom are speaking English as a 2nd or 3rd or even 4th language.
Here is a tricky example: I stood him up and I stood up to him. The preposition "up" simply changed its place in the sentence but the sense changes completely. The French I asked understood neither; the Dutch understood the second half, but all those I asked thought the first meant to help someone out of a chair!
A keynote in Germany that ended in awkward silence because the American's final comment—his punch line...and that was the fly in the ointment was understood by no one.
Figures of speech feature prominently in the repertoires of anglophones and if you present to an audience of native speakers, have fun with them! But ask first if there are any non-anglophones present and modify accordingly. Also remember that British idiom differs from American and Australian figures of speech. If you want to use an idiom, you need to explain it. A French speaker in Paris used the idiom "hook, line and sinker" and had images of all three! . In fact, it is a maxim of Globish to make a comment in two different ways to increase your chances of being understood.
© Elizabeth Noble, 2009. All rights reserved