Communicating like a native English Speaker
How to communicate like a native English speaker
The first thing to note is that natives from most countries where English is the first language rely on intonation much more than other languages generally do.
Intonation tells us a variety of information without having to express it through gesticulation, although that's not to say that native English speakers aren't completely still, we just use our gestures more sparingly than other cultures such as Spanish or Italian.
Here are some simple things you can listen out for:
- The lifting of tone at the end of phrase usually indicates that its a question.
Try practising yourself, hit the highlighted section with a rise in your pitch and listen to the difference between these two phrases:
1. May I have a coffee, please?
2. May I have a coffee, please?
Number 2 is the correct way to do this. Intonation at the end of a question indicates both that it is a question and also gives an element of politeness to said interrogative. Number 1 could be misconstrued as rude although that might not have been your intention. That brings us onto our next point.
- Sarcasm is usually indicated by the rise or hitting of words, usually at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence. Although sarcasm is often seen as the British standard, it's important to know when and how to use this piece of language so as not to get in trouble or to offend your speaking partner.
Try and practise with these two phrases and really force the highlighted word.
1. Maybe, I'll make a coffee. Would you like one?
2. Maybe, I'll make a coffee. Would you like one?
Again, number 1 is better. It's not 100% necessary to really hit the like, but it shows that you have an interest in whether your partner is actually interested in receiving a drink or not. Number 2, however, should be avoided. The hitting of "I'll" makes it clear that you are irritated that your partner has not asked if you would like them to make a coffee for you, and the hitting of "you" further strengthens that annoyance and suggests that you are unhappy to do so for your partner.
- As referenced before, British people are not really as exaggerated as their Mediterranean counterparts when it comes to body language and gesticulation, but that's not to say that specific hand gestures or body language rules shouldn't be obeyed when speaking to a native speaker.
- First, respect personal space. This is essential when speaking to British people especially. As a general rule, if your arm can touch the other person when you raise it, you're too close! This isn't the case for good friends of partners of course, but if your just getting introduced to a new person then know your limits.
- You'll also find that most British people are a bit awkward when speaking to someone that they don't really know. It's hard to judge how much eye contact to make at first and we often try to be either evasive or invasive. You might notice that they will be looking at one thing then returning their gaze to you very quickly. As long as you understand that you're keeping their attention and it's not a case of them ignoring you and trying to get away from the conversation, then you'll do fine with this point!
- For those of you that aren't familiar with the term, to pussyfoot means to be evasive, especially when discussing potential difficult subjects. British people again are especially prone to this and can often be misunderstood because of this. Don't worry about the problems that you're bound to encounter during your language exchange journey. Simply ask for your partner to be more forward with you.
A classic example of this would be:
Normal: Please, pass me the salt.
Pussyfooting: Please, if it's possible, could you do me the favour of passing me the salt at your convenience.
Typically British people come off as overly polite when it's just something that we grow up with and inherit over time. This isn't true for everyone of course and you will find rude British people the same as you would anywhere else in the world.
Get used to accents
- We have spoken about this in other articles too but it's so important. The truth is you're probably not going to lose your accent even if you live in the UK for many years. This is for a few different reasons. One is physiological, there's no coincidence that British people find it difficult to roll their R's and Spanish people find it difficult to make the buzzing noise of the letter Z. After generations of performing these linguistic physical features, it becomes almost impossible to manipulate your tongue, throat and vocal cords into doing anything else.
- What you should be aiming for is to be understandable. This means that people should be able to understand your pronunciation between close sounding words such as beer, bear, beard and bird.
- You should also listen to as many accents as possible in order to increase your understanding of the different English spoken around the country. The truth is if you can understand the Scouse (Liverpudlian) accent, then you'll be able to understand a fair amount of softer accents.
Use and understand slang
- There are a lot of us who really detest slang as it historically represents a lower class of existence. That being said it has seeped into modern language more and more over the past thirty or so years. It's worth nothing that newly coined words as a direct result of technological advancement are NOT slang words. They actually come under the category Neologisms. These include words such as "phablet," "to Google (something)," "Spam," "Geobragging."
- Here are some examples of British slang and what they mean so that you can start to sound like a true Brit.
Bagsy: To claim something before someone else. I.e - Front seat of the car, bagsy!
Budge Up: Move over. I.e - There's no space here, budge up!
Chuffed: Extremely happy
Dodgy: Suspicious or not with good intention. I.e - That email from the Nigerian Prince looks dodgy.
Knackered: Extremely tired
Pear-shaped: Something that has gone wrong. I.e - The date went pair shape after she told me she loved K-pop.
Skint: To have no money
Snog: Kiss passionately
It would be impossible for us to explain everything about communication, but you should research for yourself and really utilise modern technology for educational purposes.
Hopefully you've got enough information now to sound like a true native. Good luck with your language exchange journey!
Written by: Jordan Benyon, staff writer
- Learning Languages
- 9 Jan, 2020
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