English Conversation. The art of Speaking Boutique English Abu Dhabi

We're all different birds of a feather.

What is it about speaking a foreign language that often stops people in their tracks? Fear of embarrassment? Fear of mistakes? Fear of impatience and attitude from a native speaker? I've felt it all!

Learning a language can be great on paper, especially if you have one of those minds that helps you organise grammar easily. But when it comes to putting your mouth and brain into action at the same time in a foreign language, it can be difficult. Hey, it can be difficult in our first language at the best of times. But it's not just the physical act of talking, there is also the "silent" stuff, the body language, tone, speed of delivery, how you listen to your conversation partner.

There is an art to conversation, an etiquette, that although it exists in many cultures, it is also drastically different across the cultural divide. How do we talk and move together to communicate effectively?

I first experienced this when I was living in Pusan, South Korea, in the mid 1990's. I remember sitting on the local bus, as you do in a foreign city, hoping like heck that I was going in the right direction for a change.

There were two women on the bus, sitting across and slightly down from each other. I could hear the word everybody used to call out to a lady in a shop, or restaurant, a general term. Suddenly, these two women broke into a heated conversation, arms were flung wide, moving rapidly, voices grew louder, and words were issued at such speed I couldn't distinguish sounds any more. I honestly thought there was going to be a girly fight between these two ladies as I cowered in a back seat. Lit-er-ra-ly!

Astonishment took over when two minutes later, (yes I was cowering and plotting escape for what felt like a life time), these two women chuckled together and bid farewell as one got off the bus and the other moved forward to get off at the next stop.

It took me a good while to process what I experienced on that bus. Not the fear, but the struggle of understanding. That was a significant moment in my life when I realised that cross cultural conversation habits can be so opposite to our own, that we can be left dazed and confused. I freely admit it....dazed and confused. So, if I felt this living and working in a foreign country, how must my students feel when they encounter a similar differing experience. Afraid, alone, challenged?

When learning to speak in English, and having a conversation, it's important to focus on more than the words, but also the etiquette of conversation in order to break down the cultural gap and misunderstandings. That's something I think about and talk about with my students to bring us closer together.

Created By
Natalya Rietmuller
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