Overcoming the East Asian English language barrier

hsmr at gol.com hsmr at gol.com
Mon Nov 1 04:27:40 UTC 2004


It was not always easy for me to convince my conversation partners
either, especially at the beginning, when I knew so little of my host's
language. With the passage of time, however, I proved to my host
partners that my desire to learn their language was stronger than their
ability to learn English given the general absence of an English
speaking environment. Once I got to that point, it was just a matter of
persuasion in their own language, and I soon made myself believable.
What I had to do was offer real world examples that contradicted their
popular belief and refuse to disclose my national identity and origin.
Thus, I had to avoid political and philosophical viewpoints that would
point them toward my true national identity. It was a very liberating
experience and has made me very worldly as a result.


On 1 Nov 2004, at 06:54, Stan-Sandy Anonby wrote:

> I've tried that too, with less success. Many people just don't believe
> me when I tell them I don't speak English.
> Stan
> On Mon, 1 Nov 2004 04:42:47 +0800
>  "R. A. Stegemann" <moogoonghwa at mac.com> wrote:
>> Trond,
>> Thank you for your suggestion about overcoming the language hurdle,
>> but once again East Asia is not Europe. I now own pocket dictionaries
>> in the Japanese-French and Japanese-German language pairs. I learned
>> much of what I know in Japanese through the German and French
>> languages, simply as a means to force Japanese to speak Japanese with
>> me.
>> The assumption in East Asia is that, if you are Western in
>> appearance, you speak English. Either you are from the United States
>> or Great Britain and speak only English, or that you are from Europe
>> and that you have studied English as your first second language in
>> school. Thus, no matter what you tell an East Asian, he insists that
>> you know English, and speaks to you, as if you do.
>> In addition to the above strategy I would often ask Japanese who
>> insisted on speaking English with me, if they were not Korean and did
>> not know how to speak Japanese. In Hong Kong I ask Hong Kongers, if
>> they are not Japanese. By choosing racial look-alikes, who are
>> historical enemies, you incite your conversation partner's sense of
>> patriotism, and he begins "singing" to you in his native tongue. Of
>> course, then it is often so fast and with such vehemence that you
>> cannot keep up and have to beg him or her to slow down.
>> Of course, Hong Kongers are more willing to teach you Cantonese, than
>> are Japanese willing to teach you Japanese. This is something that I
>> have yet to understand entirely, but it probably has to do with Hong
>> Kong's having been a British colony. Institutionally speaking, I have
>> found Hong Kong to be every bit as much closed as Japan, if not more
>> so. Simply it is easier to set up business here, and much of what you
>> need is provided in English at no additional cost. As a result, Hong
>> Kong is often preferred by foreign enterprises operating in East
>> Asia.
>> So as to keep on topic, it is the high level of artificial demand
>> imposed on the general publics of East Asia by their governments that
>> creates the language barrier that the English language taught in East
>> Asia is suppose to overcome, but cannot.
>> Hamo
>> On 29 Oct 2004, at 19:08, Trond Trosterud wrote:
>>> 29.10.2004 kello 02:03, hsmr at pacific.net.hk kirjoitti:
>>>>  Thus, as soon as it becomes known that one is foreign, and many
>>> times before, the selected mode of speech  by East Asians is English
>>> -- no matter the level of proficiency of the foreign speaker. This
>>> presents an enormous barrier for learning one's host language.
>>> A bit off the topic, but I can't resist:
>>> If addressed in English when asking your way in Cantonese, just reply
>>> in French (or Spanish...), and then ask (in Cantonese) whether they
>>> speak French etc., and tell them that you don't speak English. It
>>> works fine in Europe, I have practised it (with success) in several
>>> language communities.
>>> Trond.
>>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> -
>>> Trond Trosterud                                        t +47 7764
>>> 4763
>>> Institutt for språkvitskap, Det humanistiske fakultet  m +47 950
>>> 70140
>>> N-9037 Universitetet i Tromsø, Noreg                   f +47 7764
>>> 4239
>>> Trond.Trosterud (a) hum.uit.no
>>> http://www.hum.uit.no/a/trond/
>>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> -

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