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Can non-native English speakers teach something to Native speakers?


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A lot of tips from English natives towards non-natives, and please keep them coming, I for one absorb them like a sponge* and hopefully learn something from them. AND feel free to revise my writing as well, I will fix the mistakes I made here when pointed out…

However, there’s also some things, that a native speaker may not realize they are doing - no necessarily wrong, but might get them in trouble or misunderstood - and when a non-native might help.

Let’s gather some things in this thread! Have you encountered a problem, or a funny situation with language?

Few of my personal experiences as tips here:

*SIMPLIFY - yes, you may be a native speaker, with Bachelor’s degree on English literature to top that. However, your customers most likely lack that… So, instead of using “big words” you use on family gatherings to make yourself look more intelligent than your cousins, try to use a more simpler words when dealing with customers. If you think something is intriguing, use the word interesting instead.

*SIMPLE, NOT PATRONIZING- as I wrote the above, I realized something… it is best to use language that is about 12 year olds reading level to make sure to avoid mis-understanding, but NEVER make yourself sound like you were making fun of someone. Use proper grammar and spelling, don’t start writing “u want me do work, me tarzan u jane”, your customer/seller may write like that with the help of google translate, but they are still intelligent enough to know when you are making fun of them! So please, don’t. Use proper language, because you know better, just use more basic words when possible.

*REGIONAL DIALECTS - please, don’t… It’s fine to use your personal touch with greetings, but avoid when discussing details of your commission. Most people who learn English as second or third language learn the sort of Oxford/UK English (though yes, there are regions that prefer US English, my cousins had learnt US English at school in Philippines, moved here as teens and they got lower grades in our UK English classes for a while even though being native in US english!)

For example, are thongs okay to wear at the beach? In Australia, yes, in California, not likely.

Again, try to use basic wordings…

*SAY NO TO JARGON/ Be prepared to explain even the most basic jargon! - you have a degree on graphic design and you offer a logo gig. You tell the pixel size and file types in the listing, still stupid customers give you all the wrong source files… guess what, your customers come to you because they don’t know your stuff! They’re not aware of your jargon, they can’t tell the difference between a bitmap and a vector, they might have gotten their business degree in the Fax era, and just don’t understand what is this pixel you refer to… or dpi or whatever.

If your customer does not understand dpi, then explain! You can go over to Clients from Hell and complain about a stupid customer, or you can look yourself in the mirror and find a way to explain the definition in words your great grandmother could understand.

Sorry if I was being repetitive... But hey, that's my point. Use basic wording! Your English is perfect, but please understand, that others may not be as fluent. Actually, English is only the THIRD most common language in the world!
After Mandarin and Spanish... And there's hundreds of languages in the world. Even in our small Finland, whose whole population could probably fit in Manhattan, we have three native languages, Finnish, Swedish and Samí... and only two of them are even taught at school!

So, please don't get cocky, instead make sure you help each other communicate, and understand each other :)

Do you have your own experience with language barriers, how did you over come them? Do you have examples to contribute? Are you a non-native and have encountered trouble with trying to explain something?

Are you a native speaker, who just can't figure out what the other person means or wants?

What is your biggest pet peeve, when it comes to communication/language barriers, something you wish they'd teach in school when teaching English?

Please feel free to post here,and hopefully help each other out :) And as said before, if it's my writing that makes you feel sick with all the mistakes, feel free to point out my mistakes with a revision suggestion... I really like to learn, and will not get upset. I'm a Finn, it's our national hobby to point out each other's mistakes :)


*absorb something like a sponge, a straight translation of a Finnish saying, meaning you fill yourself with knowledge like a dry bath sponge fills with water. If you have an adage that is close to this,please let me know :D collecting adages/sayings is one of my weird hobbies.
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Hello, I can definitely sympathize with those who are not native English speakers.

I can’t guess what words someone understands and what words they do not understand so I simply write as if I were talking to the person.

It’s asking too much to expect native English speakers to change our language to attempt to write so someone who does not understand the language can understand it.

If someone can’t understand what I’m saying it’s best to to cancel it.

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Hi, i really enjoy your thoughts on this issue, infact it is very insightful. But i don’t
agree on your point that English is only the third most common language in the world based on your quote below,
“English is only the THIRD most common language in the world! After Mandarin and Spanish… And there’s hundreds of languages in the world.”

I believe English is the most common language in the world, while Spanish and French comes after. Chinese Mandarin is virtually only commonly used in China and some little parts of Asia and not worldwide. If you go to Africa for instance, Mandarin is riddle for most African countries, but they are more familiar with either English or French. So, to me, based on linguistic research,that claim is wrong. If other members have a divergent thought about this, please let us hear your view. I willing to learn more too.

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katja1700 said: For example, are thongs okay to wear at the beach? In Australia, yes, in California, not likely.

Actually, both men and women wear them in California, the ones with sexy bodies and no shame. LOL

katja1700 said: English is only the THIRD most common language in the world!

After Mandarin and Spanish

English is the #1 international language. If you’re an airplane pilot, you can communicate with the tower in their native language or English. If you visit Germany, they’re not likely to speak Mandarin or Spanish. But English? Of course.

katja1700 said: we have three native languages, Finnish, Swedish and Samí... and only two of them are even taught at school!

If you’re from Finland, why would they be teaching you Swedish? PewdiePie is from Sweden, and he speaks English with barely an accent, that’s because Swedish kids start learning English from a very young age.

I agree with everything else you wrote.

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I have the privilege to travel to 3 continents of the world and English is still commonly sort after. Go to south America,after Spanish, English is prominent there, some parts of Asia, Europe and even in Africa, English is official language in some African countries, like in West Africa and parts of Asia, like Singapore e.t.c

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I’m lucky to speak those three most common languages of the world: English, Spanish (I’m from Spain) and Mandarin Chinese (lived 4 years in China).
Once I left China, I’ve never used my Chinese again (I’m forgetting it fast), I speak Spanish in my daily interactions, but my online life is in English.

I particularly like when UK/US/Australia… members of this and other forums write just like they talk. Sometimes that English is not as the one we learn from books, and gives me the chance to learn new expressions. Besides, if I don’t understand something it’s as easy as copy-pasting to Google, and I learn something new for free 🙂

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fastcopywriter said: If you're from Finland, why would they be teaching you Swedish? PewdiePie is from Sweden, and he speaks English with barely an accent, that's because Swedish kids start learning English from a very young age.

Swedish is the second official language in Finland. I'm a native finn and swedish is my mother tongue, finnish is my second language. English starts for us in the third grade (age 10).

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Sometimes, i am even more confused about this non-native and native English speaker issue.
For instance, a young boy from Africa or Asia grew up in Britain, Canada or USA from age 6 and speaks no other language till he is 30 years old and he can even speak the language more than some native born child and some people still refer to that kind of person as non-native English speaker… Common; what qualifies one as a native English speaker? is it colour of the skin or racial descent? Please, i need more reactions. Thanks

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Reply to @mgjohn78:

Reply to @mgjohn78: That’s fascinating, and it’s surprising. Is it the same in Finland? Are they learning Swedish as their second language?

I did some research and found this:

"Scandinavians watch a lot of movies and TV series from America in English, whereas Italians dub almost everything from America into Italian. "

So kudos to Scandinavia. That’s a great idea.

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I have a reaction. First, your own profile indicates your country. Your profile picture doesn’t seem to match your country/languages. Your post here doesn’t outright say it, but I would bet you are male. Honestly, why would you want to fake all that? I see it so much on Fiverr and it genuinely confuses me.

Men pretending to be women, good-looking but faked profile pictures for gigs that have much more to do with intellect than looks, languages that only matter if you actually speak them well… Your post/profile indicate that you do speak English well which may help you with sales. Why fake other things?

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Reply to @prolitech: A native English speaker is someone who was born in an English-speaking country (England, America, Australia, New Zealand) and grew up from the language from day one. Of course, a foreign child that immigrates to America a 3 to 6, might be able to learn the language and lose the accent eventually. But an immigrant who comes to America at 15-20 is unlikely to ever lose his accent. Ayn Rand for example never lost her Russian accent, and yet her books, written in English, have sold millions.

I think Europeans speak more languages because they’re in closer proximity to other countries. Some Americans might study French or Spanish in high school, but they rarely get a chance to use it. A German on the other hand will get many chances to use his French, Spanish, Italian, etc.

On the other hand, if you live in South Florida, specially Miami, you will get lots of chances to use your Spanish. I’ve been in restaurants where the waiter doesn’t speak a word of English.

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