Speaking English to People Who Don’t

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If you travel around, you will often find yourself speaking English to people who don’t speak it very well. There’s a certain art to communicating ideas effectively in this environment that nobody I’ve ever met does as good (sic) as I do. I’ve grown up around people who are terrible English speakers. I’ve befriended them, learned from them, taught them, and worked with them. I know how to speak Broken English to these people.

  • Step 1: Find Common Ground

If the person speaks a Romance (Italian, French, Spanish, Romanian, Portuguese) language fluently, you will be able to communicate with Western Body Language (the only body language you know) and common words that haven’t changed much from their original Latin. Words that end in -ant, -ate, -ous, and -ent (I don’t remember what declensions those are) fit this bill more often than not. Examples: apartment, complicate, populous, infiltrate, exodus, expectant… I mean, the list goes on forever. Don’t expect to use Germanic words and be understood regardless of how “simple” they are. You’re better off using “less simple” words with Latin roots.

It’s astonishing how often people will use shorter words in favor of longer, more common words with the thought that the shorter words are simpler for the listener to understand.

If the person speaks a Germanic (German, Norse, Swedish, Danish, Dutch) language, they will most likely speak English. However, if they speak a distant Indo-European language (Greek, Russian, Hindi) you will still be able to find common ground with a little more effort on your part. If you learn some basic nouns (20 can be enough) in their language you can have a meaningful conversation by filling in the blanks with some well-chosen English, which they will know at least some of. This leads me to my next point.

  • Step 2: Don’t Speak Complete Sentences

This is, by far, the biggest mistake people make. The beauty of English is that you can put a few nouns together with a verb (wrongly conjugated is fine, go with the 3rd person when in doubt) and communicate a thought. I think an example here will tell it best.

Bad: So, what’s your favorite kind of alcohol?

Good: You drink (make drinking gesture with hand), what is drink you drink for happy? You happy drink… Vodka?

Note that the good version repeats the subject of the question (drink) 5 times including the gesture. Also, it uses two words that are almost universally known: ‘happy’ and ‘vodka’.

If the person knew very, very little English, you could learn their word for ‘you’ and ‘good’ (replace ‘happy’ with ‘good’) and get your idea across with the gesture very easily.

  • Step 3: Draw Pictures

Uh, no shit Sherlock.

Appendix:

If we’re going to talk about hitting on foreign girls, it needs to be said that the basics still remain the same. Don’t reveal any information about yourself, especially your nationality. Make her earn the knowledge of your nationality. Ask her a bunch of questions and let her talk. You might understand 10% of what she says, but it doesn’t fucking matter. I learned how little I have to listen to girls by being put in a situation where I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Just sit there with a confident smile on your face and check out the other girls around the bar. Don’t ask for any clarifications.

Going overseas to pick up girls is like a NFL quarterback going to the Pro-Bowl. All of a sudden there are no blitzes, all your receivers are wide open, and you come out in the middle of the second quarter to hit on the Hawaiian cheerleaders.

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1 Comment

Filed under Self Improvement

One response to “Speaking English to People Who Don’t

  1. Yep, going overseas pays big dividends in sooo many ways. One of these days I’m just not going to come back I expect. What’s the point if you can make your living internationally?

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