Re: Reflections on Communicating in English When English is One's Second Language

Ana Catina (catina@Psyres-Stuttgart.DE)
Tue, 28 May 1996 11:37:36 +0200 (MET DST)

Dear Gary,
Look at my name below and you will notice that I am not a German. I am
living here since almost 15 years. I communicate in German in my day to
day life. My job obliges me to a lot of communication in English. Usual
situation for immigrants.
I have always considered that when communicating in a language that is not your
native one, "feeling" the words is very helpful. That is: do not
translate in your mind what you have to decode, but get "a picture" of
it. This probably is "the tourist's technique". (Traps: the idioms).
You have to remember, however, that your partner will
never try the same, s/he will rather look for more precise pattern,
s/he is used with. If such patterns will be not found, a lot of your
part of communication will get lost. Misunderstandings will emerge.

One will eventually discover that we are not
living in a world of words, but of grammatical forms. The
sequence of the words in a sentence will give the sense, the
nuance, the spice of whatever one tries to communicate. Although we are
familiar with the idea that garammar reproduces the logical model, you
will discover that the emotions (they may be illogical sometimes) you try to
convey are twisted because you did not used the right conditional form.
We learn a lot of words. We learn more languages. We feel comfortable
with them. We can say a lot and can understand a lot. However I can express
more, deeper and "more couloured" in my
own language: my self will always be poorer if I express its experiences
in another language.

I will never learn to cry in another language, I guess.

I do not know what shall I answer to your question after another 20 years!
Anyway, I felt good reading your message to Alessandra: thank you for
wanting to share.
Dr.Phil. Ana Catina
Center for Psychotherapy Research
Christian Belser Str. 79a
70597 Stuttgart

Fax number. *49 711 687 6902
Phone 49 711 6781 411