Meet the Author in Partnership With The NNC Network; In Conversation With... Zanne Gaynor & Kathryn Alevizos
Let’s cut to the chase!
Why ‘Is that clear?:...’ really is a must-read for native English speakers
Last Thursday (19th October), VMA GROUP hosted another of Crystle Pearce’s Meet the Author sessions, but this time in collaboration with the NNC Network – a community of non-native internal communications professionals. Welcoming Zanne Gaynor and Kathryn Alevizos, authors of ‘Is that clear?: Effective communication in a multilingual world’, the audience was encouraged to reflect on communication style to non-native English colleagues. Here are my key takeaways!
So, what’s the book?
Written by language specialists and experienced trainers in international communication skills, ‘Is that clear?...’ is a handy and easy-to-read guide full of tips to help native English speakers communicate to non-native colleagues. The book is split into three sections; ‘Adapting your language’, ‘Inclusive not exclusive’ and ‘Last but not least’.
Slow it down!
So, a non-native English speaker says ‘what did you say?’ (pronounced as ‘whadyasay’ by a native, like me), what do you do? Well, the temptation felt by native English speakers might be to simply TURN UP THE VOLUME, or talk r.e.a.l.l.y. s.l.o.w.l.y; but, why not just take time to pause instead?
Did you know, on average, a native English speaker speaks around 180 words per minute? Yes, that’s one hundred and eighty words per minute… and with 1440 minutes in a day…I’ll let you do the maths. Whilst it may feel forced and unnatural to pause, it’s simply a question of demonstrating verbal punctuation. This will give non-native English speakers time to follow and process the information being delivered.
Zanne and Kathryn also spoke about the art of inclusive conversations. We’ve all been there: maybe you’re at a loud work event and you can’t hear the conversation, or maybe the topics are changing every other minute. Now imagine this, but in a foreign language. This is closely linked to the importance of taking the time to pause: sometimes, non-native English speakers may be judged to think they are lacking in knowledge, or even in personality, but have you considered they may just need a little more time to follow the conversation?
In a professional setting and when so much work is now virtual, it’s crucial that we reflect and review how we are communicating to multilingual audiences, and also appreciate that your English is one of many varieties. When we are sat behind screens, you might not see the uncomfortable body language of someone who is keen to speak but just needs a little more time.
A voice speaks a thousand words:
Given that around 350 million people speak English as their first language and there are over 45 accents in the UK alone, we must recognise the complexities that arise with accent variation. As a native English speaker, I might hear a West Country accent and think of farmers; I might hear an East Midlands accent and feel a connection, as this is my ‘home accent’; I might hear a Cockney accent and feel the urge to say ‘cor blimey, guv'nor!’…, the point is that accents are often conjure up a sense of identity and non-native English speakers might face a greater challenge in detecting this and also finding their own sense of belonging when speaking the language.
Additionally, Kathryn and Zanne also touched on the challenges faced by non-native speakers when we decorate our speech with cultural references – whilst idiomatic expressions and colloquial language may make our speech more colourful, it can make the conversation harder to understand and unnecessarily complex when transferring a simple message.
My key takeaway:
As a native English speaker, and someone who admittedly hates reading(!), I can safely say this book was a great read. Kathyrn and Zanne were brilliant speakers and they have certainly made me reflect on my own communication style. To anyone who works with a multilingual team, I highly recommend taking a look.
‘Is that clear?...’ was shortlisted for the 2020 Business Book Awards and is available to purchase through their website (https://www.acrobat-global.com/books) – if you are interested, do take a look.
At VMA GROUP, we continue to run several networking initiatives designed for Communications, Marketing, Digital and Change professionals alike, so if you are keen to hear more, please keep an eye on our LinkedIn page and website for more information.
Hope to see you all soon!
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