Unrelated to this, a buddy recently informed me about an e-mail that was issued to the employees by his boss, who was a non-native English speaker. This is the headline, which is written in large letters: “Congratulations on your success!” Such mistakes are of interest to linguists because they provide insights into language processing in the bilingual brain while also providing information on communication in the multilingual workplace.
Multilingualism in the workplace is seen negatively by some: ‘Unrestricted multilingualism is inefficient and gets in the way of achieving corporate objectives,’ argues Harvard business professor Tsedal Neeley. “Sales are lost, merger integration drags on, and productivity diminishes,” he adds. This might all be prevented with a single easy step — a policy of English-only communication, which is currently mandated in many multinational firms. “You don’t have to be fluent in your native language in order to be productive at work,” Neeley asserts with great conviction. “For the vast majority of individuals, 3,000 to 5,000 words will enough.” Is it true, however, that working with a limited vocabulary improves the effectiveness of communication efforts? These misunderstanding quotes presented by Reneturrek.com will resonate with you.
In two earlier pieces, we explored miscommunication in high-stakes scenarios, ranging from air traffic control (see here) to police questioning (see here), among other things (see here). A good example of a visible error is “Congratulations on your success,” where an odd word choice is instantly spotted by readers and listeners and does not interfere with interpretation. Even while the term’s abrupt inappropriateness may cause some amusement, the context leaves little question that the writer intended to say “congratulations.”
We may even identify with the issue since we have all been in circumstances when the word we are frantically seeking for is dancing on the tip of our tongue but is drowned out by other words that are similar in appearance or sound to it. Rather than being a random jumble of words, the similarities between “conjugations” and “congratulations” – the prefix, the suffix, the length, and the plural – tell us that our mind is a structured structure in which words are stored and misplaced according to specific principles, which we can learn from the examples above.
This section will discuss unseen faults that might cause misconceptions as well as other types of problems. Invisible mistakes are flawed alternatives that are near enough to the target word in meaning that they go unnoticed — neither the speaker nor the listener is aware that they are on the wrong road since they are both unaware of it. The following is an example of a listening comprehension research that my colleagues and I are running with overseas students who have advanced levels of English proficiency but little awareness of American culture and traditions. In one assignment, the participants must listen to recorded phrases and then write down what they hear on their paper. As predicted, phrases containing legal terminology and words with a low frequency of occurrence produced more difficulties than sentences of comparable length including known words. That our participants would be so dexterous in filling in the blanks was something we were not expecting.
There was a particularly confusing blank that used the term jurors in the line, “Jurors decide who is guilty.” The participants, who were unfamiliar with the concept of jury trials, were certain that they had heard the judge say: “The judge determines who is guilty.” This replacement demonstrates the top-down nature of language processing: after grasping the concept (X determines guilt), the mental processor leverages existing background information to select the most plausible option, in this instance the judge.
In the line, “The American judicial system is dependent on the precedents established by earlier decisions,” the word “precedents” was substituted with the word “president.” This was a very curious alteration. In a world where international students are inundated with news about deportations and travel restrictions, and are anxious about their own immigration status, the notion of the president as the ultimate lawmaker made perfect sense.
Although the English-only policy makes life more comfortable for monolingual English speakers, the examples above demonstrate that it is not an effective barrier against miscommunication and misunderstanding in the workplace. In order to make sense of items we have missed or misheard, our initial reaction is to fill in the blanks. We only seek clarification when we are unable to make any sense of what we have heard. When people are compelled to work primarily in a foreign language in which they have a restricted vocabulary, the likelihood of unseen errors and unnoticed misunderstandings increases even further.
workers of multinational firms are well aware of the fact that they are at a competitive disadvantage when obliged to operate in a single language. When it comes to everyday communication, according to research conducted by the Swiss sociolinguist Georges Lüdi and his colleagues in multinational corporations, mixed teams rely on the entirety of their plurilingual repertoires, with English as the common language being only one of many strategies used to communicate. According to the experts, limiting communication to English exclusively may result in a loss of information and creativity, as well as emotional alienation on the part of those who are unable to communicate in their native language. However, while multilingual communication is not a panacea, it does have one advantage: it makes misunderstandings more obvious and provides us with more means to rectify them when they occur.
In an e-mail, a non-native English speaker’s boss wrote in large letters: “Congratulations on your success!”. Such mistakes provide insights into language processing in the bilingual brain. Harvard business professor Tsedal Neeley argues that working with a limited vocabulary improves effectiveness of communication efforts. Invisible mistakes are near enough to the target word in meaning that they go unnoticed. Neither the speaker nor the listener is aware that they are on the wrong road since they are both unaware of it.
This section will discuss unseen faults that might cause misconceptions as well as other types of problems. Mixed teams rely on the entirety of their plurilingual repertoires, with English as the common language. According to experts, limiting communication to English exclusively may result in a loss of information and creativity. Multilingual communication is not a panacea, but it makes misunderstandings more obvious.