Slovenščina English (United Kingdom)

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IBS Mednarodna poslovna šola Ljubljana

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Stanislava Krapež, MA (Applied Linguistics): ENGLISH – A GLOBAL LANGUAGE

natisni E-pošta

I will start off my talk by saying a few words about the role the English language plays in the world.

English is the most widely spoken language in the history of our planet. It has become a lingua franca, the common language for communication, for people of many different cultures. It is spoken by many times more people as a second or foreign language than as a mother tongue. Interestingly, non native speakers of English (Kachru's expanding circle) now contribute 80% of total English usage worldwide. And, as David Crystal, one of the world's foremost authorities on the English language said, there is nothing likely to stop its continued spread as a global language - a lingua franca - at least in the near future. Some recent research highlights the fact that, contrary to expectations, native speakers are among the least able to be understood or to understand those who use other varieties of English, who belong to expanding circle.

No other language has spread around the globe so extensively and with such speed, except Latin, which was a global language when the world was much smaller. English has acquired the largest vocabulary of all the world's languages, perhaps as many as two million words. The majority of international telephone calls are made in English, and more than seventy per cent of international mail is written and addressed in English. Not to mention computer texts and web sites. English also plays an official or working role in most major international political gatherings in all parts of the world. It is the dominant language of science, media, advertising, travel, cinema and pop(ular) music. Although every country has its popular singers, singing in their own language, only a few manage to break through into the international arena not singing in English.

Until recently learning English was an option that could be helpful in the working world, but not vital. But the situation has been changing and English is being required by more and more employers.

 

Is English a crazy language?

If someone said that English is complicated and confusing, would you agree? Would you dare to say that it is a crazy language, the most loopy of all languages? Well, this is exactly what Richard Lederer, American bestselling author, speaker and teacher talks about in his famous essay on the English language. Well, here are some interesting examples which he uses to support his argument:

  • there is no egg in eggplant;
  • nor ham in hamburger;
  • neither apple nor pine in pineapple;
  • English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France;
  • sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat;
  • boxing rings are square;
  • how can the weather be "hot as hell" one day and "cold as hell" another?
  • when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible;
  • most bathrooms don't have any baths in them. In fact, a dog can go to the bathroom under a tree - no bath, no room; it's still going to the bathroom.

There are also some other interesting and confusing features. For example, the English language tends to shorten words, especially informal English, which poses additional problems to second or foreign language learners and makes the English language hard to understand. Examples of such expressions include the following:

  • a rep = a representative
  • a vet = veterinarian
  • a temp = a temporary employee
  • a daff = a daffodil
  • a gent = a gentleman
  • a lab = a laboratory
  • sub = subscription
  • comfy = comfortable
  • etc.

The truth be told, all languages are a little crazy if we look at them from such perspective. That is because language is invented, not discovered, by people, not computers. As such, language reflects the creativity of the human race.

 

Verbal and non-verbal communication

When we listen to other people we often show them how interested we are in their conversation. We do this in different ways, for example, we start:

  • smiling with our eyes
  • nodding.

And conversely, when students listen to their English teacher or English speakers and don't understand them, and are flooded with fear and anxiety, they often start:

  • biting their nails
  • sweating
  • hiding behind their fellow student's back
  • hunching their shoulders.

So, what are we doing or expressing with our bodies? What do we tell with our body language? Whatever it is, either fear or enthusiasm, without a word being said our non-verbal messages or non-verbal communication reveal a multitude of thoughts and emotions. Non-verbal communication includes all aspects of communication other than words.

Although basic communication is possible without words, there are certain situations in which verbal language is essential. As soon as speakers refer to something that is beyond the "here", "there" and "now", gestures alone do not suffice. For example when we talk about the past or the future, about something that happened yesterday, or will happen tomorrow, when we refer to abstract matters such as speed, happiness, globalisation, economy and politics, it becomes almost impossible to express those meanings through body language. The missing link in all those situations is language.

 

Are you afraid of speaking in English?

Students often say: "I don't want to speak English until my English is much better." Or "When I speak English, I feel stupid because I make lots of mistakes and don't know enough vocabulary."

My advice is: "Don't give up! Join a discussion, and don't be afraid to commit a mistake." Mistakes are not the worst thing we can make.

What can you do to overcome your fear of speaking in English? The first thing to do is, undoubtedly, to study English, learn vocabulary, practise grammar. Don't be afraid of making mistakes! People make mistakes all the time. And I don't just mean people who are studying English as a foreign language, but even native speakers who have been using the language all their lives - we all make mistakes even in our mother tongue. Cast your mind back to your childhood. Think about children when they are learning to talk. They are not frightened of being wrong. They make mistakes all the time but this does not stop their progress. Students need to listen and understand as much as they need to speak. So, enjoy learning the language instead of worrying about making mistakes. And remember the old sayings "We learn from our mistakes" and, my favourite one, "Practice makes perfect".

Learning a new language is exciting but can be very daunting. Language is one of the most difficult areas for both teachers and students. But, on the other hand, nothing is as simple as learning a language. We all learn our mother tongue naturally.

Learning a new language differs from the study of other subjects, in that it involves not just learning something new, but also using the knowledge to communicate.

 

What type of learner are you?

People learn using a variety of different methods but one method is usually predominant. Language learning can differ from person to person - different people learn in different ways. But knowing how you learn will help you to get most out of the language study. So try to determine your learning style. Knowing what type of learner you are can help you to develop a learning strategy.

There are three main types of learning styles:

  • visual learners

They prefer to see everything written down and take detailed notes to absorb the information; they learn best from visual displays such as: diagrams, illustrated text books, videos, flipcharts and hand-outs...

If you are a visual learner, use highlighters. They make things bright and colourful while making the important bits stand out. Videos are great resources for you; there are now so many freely available videos online.

  • auditory learners

They tend to be natural listeners. Written information has little meaning until they hear it; they need to hear the language spoken, they learn best through verbal lectures, discussions, and listening to what others have to say.

If this is your style, you may benefit from listening to the radio, perhaps on your way to work, or listening to text as you read it. Try reading texts aloud. You can benefit from repeating information out loud to yourself. Even better than pure repetition would be to paraphrase, or pick out the main points of what you have just learnt and say it to yourself.

  • tactile/kinesthetic learners

They find it hard to sit still for long periods; their learning style involves physical responses; they learn best through a hands-on approach, actively exploring the physical world around them.

If this is your style, you may tap a pencil, squeeze a stress ball, and study with a pen or pencil in hand to write things down. Just make sure that this doesn't become a distraction itself!

 

 Some English learning tips

Have you ever been amazed at how well some people manage to express themselves in a foreign language? Such a good standard cannot be achieved overnight, and competent speakers have normally spent many years in contact with the language and culture in question. As for me, English language acquisition is my work and my hobby; I really enjoy it. I studied languages - Latin and English and a bit of Italian, I have been teaching languages for quite some time, and I am still trying to improve my English language skills.

There are many other factors at play, such as our/your reasons for learning the language. One of the main reasons is business - doing business, being promoted, getting a job or perhaps keeping a job.

I would like to give you some tips on how to become an effective learner but it all depends on your learning preferences. You know how much time you can dedicate to learning English, but a short time each day will produce better, longer-term results than a full day at the weekend and then nothing for two weeks.

 

Set yourself some goals:

 

  • Read a book or a comic every month (why not Harry Potter?)
  • Use the Internet - you can find authentic material on virtually any topic. What is more, the material is very up-to-date;
  • Read a news article on the Internet every day. Most newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations have websites. They often offer audio and video broadcasts (BBC webpage!)
  • Watch an English film at least once a month, if possible without subtitles.
  • Spend your time on things that interest you. If you like cooking then buy an English-language cookbook or find recipes on the Internet and practise following the recipes.
  • If you are too tired to actively practise just relax and listen to an English pop song or radio station.
  • If possible, travel to an English speaking country.

 

Pronunciation tips - tongue twisters

 

Tongue twisters are phrases or sentences which are hard to speak fast, but they help develop speech skills. They can boost your confidence. Tongue twisters can be used as perfect pronunciation exercises. They are hard to say because of the repetition of the same phonetic sound. When learning them by heart you can enrich your vocabulary and memorize plenty of set expressions, and even learn irregular verbs.

Here is a list of some tongue twisters:

  • A good cook could cook as much cookies as a good cook who could cook cookies.
  • If you notice this notice, you will notice that this notice is not worth noticing.
  • I wish to wish the wish you wish, but if you wish the wish the witch wishes, I won't wish the wish you wish to wish.
  • She sells sea shells on the sea shore. The shells that she sells are sea shells I'm sure.
  • Swan swam over the sea. Swim, swan, swim! Swan swam back again. Well swum, swan!
  • Jailer jailed for helping jailbird on run from jail.

 

Collocations

I believe that a word a day or a week can help you to improve your vocabulary very quickly. You are probably thinking that one word a week is not very much. It is not. But it can bring about a rapid improvement in your vocabulary skills.

Although words are usually listed as individual items in dictionaries, they very rarely occur in isolation in real life. English is full of expressions like: keep in touch; by the way; hang on a minute; not at all, quite frankly...

So learn collocations, words that have strong connections with other words. Some common examples of collocations are:

  • Sweet dreams!
  • A deep breath
  • Stop dead (= stop suddenly)
  • Stay put (= remain in a place)
  • Nervous breakdown

And some business collocations:

  • Make a loss/a profit
  • Launch a new product
  • Go bankrupt
  • Annual turnover
  • Lay off staff

How to learn and memorize collocations? There are no rules; they simply sound right. For example, Happy Birthday sounds right, whereas Marry Birthday sounds odd.

So think about collocations, the company a word keeps, rather than presenting the word in isolation.

 

I would like to give you few other examples of collocations. What company can the word "second" have? It is a simple word, related to the number two and time, but it can have a company of some other words:

 

second to none - the best

  • As a manager, he is second to none. Nobody is better than he is.

 

seconds - another helping of the food you have just eaten

  • Seconds, anybody? The cake is delicious.

second best - not as good as the best

  • The company is going to have the second-best year in its history.

second-rate - of poor quality, not very good or impressive

  • Markets are filled with second-rate products.

on second thoughts = used to show that you have changed your opinion

  • I'll wait here. No, on second thoughts, I'll come with you.

have second thoughts - to have doubts about a decision you have made

  • I'm having second thoughts about giving a presentation. I feel really nervous.

without a second thought - immediately

  • She'll spend a hundred pounds on a dress without a second thought.

 

Gambits

The main way we make our conversation sound natural is by using "gambits". A gambit is a word or phrase or remark which helps us to express what we are trying to say. For example, we use gambits to agree or disagree, to respond to what we have heard, to show surprise, disbelief, etc. In one sense, a gambit has very little meaning; it does not express an opinion. On the other hand, gambits are full of meaning; they show our attitude to the person we are speaking to and to what he/she is saying. For example, you go into a shop and say "Could you tell me how much this is, please?" instead of "How much is this?"

You are listening to something long and complicated. You do not understand everything and you may want the speaker/teacher to repeat what was said. Among the most useful gambits to get people to repeat what they said are:

  • Sorry, I don't follow you.
  • Sorry, I didn't catch the last part.
  • Would you mind repeating that?
  • What was that again?

and finally

  • What means gambit, 

which is one my favourite questions students ask incorrectly, by the way. So ask correctly:

  • What DOES gambit mean?

 

Thank you for listening to me. I hope I have given you some guidelines and also some inspiration. When you get home, take a few minutes and reflect on what you have learnt about the English language, and get rid of the fear of speaking English.

I wish you all a good start to the new academic year and all the best in your English language learning.

 

 

LITERATURE AND REFERENCES

 

CAPRAS, D. 2012. Seconds, Please. Business Spotlight. (online). Retrieved from:

 http://www.business-spotlight.de/blogs/deborah-capras/seconds-please (12.9.2012). 

 

CRYSTAL, D. 1997. English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

FERNANDEZ-TORO, M. 2012. When Words Do Matter. OpenLearn. (online). Retrieved from: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/languages/when-words-do-matter (10.9.2012).

 

HURD, S., MURPHY, L. (eds.). 2005. Success with Languages. London and New York: Routledge.

 

KACHRU, B. 1992. Teaching World Englishes in The Other Tongue: English across Cultures. Kachru B. (ed). University Illinois Press.

 

KELLER, E., WARNER, S. T. 1988. Conversation Gambits: Real English Conversation Practices. Hove: Language Teaching Publications.

 

LEDERER, R. 1989. Crazy English. New York: Pocket Books.