This article is the second part to our summary of “Don’t Speak English, Parlez Globish®” by Jean-Paul Nerrière. If you haven’t read the first part, I suggest you start there: Globish (Global English), or Why Non-Native Speakers Have the Upper Hand in Internationalism. Globish isn’t just a restrictive list of English vocabulary. In his book, Jean-Paul Nerrière, who has a very impressive resume with international communication, explains the tips and tricks to make yourself understood abroad, all over the planet (and not just in English-speaking countries).
The Perfect English Accent
First off, I assure you that you don’t need the “perfect” Oxford accent to make yourself understood. Most English speakers can “hear through” foreign accents, but some native speakers are more used to hearing foreigners speaking English than others.
That being said, it is still important to learn a language’s exact pronunciation to have the highest chance of making yourself understood. There are at least 18 different varieties of English, the most well-known being American and British English. So then which accent should non-native speakers pick? In France, they tend to use the English of their neighbors across the Channel. While in Mexico, for instance, you can count on the American accent being front and center. But for all non-native speakers, if your goal is to make yourself understood all over the planet, the American accent is your best bet.
The MosaLingua English app includes a recording from a native English speaker for each word and phrase, which helps you learn pronunciation.
Techniques to Make Yourself Understood Abroad
Throughout his career, author Jean-Paul Nerrière went from being vice president of IBM Europe to IBM USA. During his many meetings, he’s had the chance to refine his techniques of making himself understandable to an international audience. His techniques are crucial for working in an international environment, but they’re also helpful for other international contexts, such as traveling abroad. They will help you express yourself all over the world, and they’re invaluable when addressing a non-Anglophone audience.
Evaluate Your Audience
Here’s the first step: adapting your speech to the lowest level, or the lowest common denominator of your audience. If your goal is to make yourself understood, you need to adapt. Don’t you hate it when you can’t understand a speaker of your target language because they make no effort to slow their speech and articulate? Well, it’s all the same, if not worse, for non-native listeners. Remember, not everybody is at the same English level as you, native or not.
Purposefully Make a Few Mistakes from the Beginning
This technique is one of my favorites. It helps give your non-Anglophone audience members a bit of confidence. And it helps open up the conversation by removing certain complexes people might have with the language.
For our non-native readers, remember, it isn’t in wielding somebody’s language with gusto that you earn their respect (you will probably never speak as well as them). It’s in asking them to reword certain phrases more easily that you earn the respect and efforts you deserve.
This seems obvious, but it isn’t always easy when you’re speaking your own language. Nonetheless, you need to make sure that you’re leaving your speakers some time to take in the information. Further, it’s a good asset that all great orators make use of to highlight what they’re saying.
Use Short Phrases
Likewise, it’s obvious that you’ll be easier to understand by doing this.
Use a Lot of Words and Synonyms
Of course, when you limit yourself to the 1,500 words of Globish, you sometimes need to lump approximate words together. You can also periphrase, or use more words than necessary to describe or define a word, to fully express yourself.
Example: The word “siblings” doesn’t have an equivalent in some languages. So, while it may be longer and less sophisticated to say “my mother and father’s other children,” this is how you use simpler words and ensure you’re being understood by the whole world.
Repeat and Reword
Do not hesitate to repeat yourself and reword important phrases so you’re sure they are being understood.
Avoid Metaphors and Expressions
These phrases very often don’t have corresponding phrases in other languages, and they almost never translate properly. To make yourself understood abroad, leave phrases like “the cat’s out of the bag” at home.
All the same, humor is different from country to country. At best, you’ll be misunderstood, while at the worst, your words will be misinterpreted.
Use Visual Aids
Make maximum use of body language. Most gestures are universal, and this will add a notable element of comprehension to your discourse. It’s possible to make yourself understood solely through signs, so give yourself all the help you can by using different methods of expressing yourself.
Likewise, if you’re giving a presentation, make use of diagrams, graphics, and images whenever possible.
Draw up Conclusions or Create a Summary Together
This technique goes a long way with work meetings. It allows you to ensure that everybody understood all of the meeting (native and non-native speakers alike), and it’s encouraging and good practice for everybody to participate in this exercise.
Use a Restricted Vocabulary
And to end our summary, I have to mention this point as well. To be sure that you’re being understood by non-native speakers who don’t necessarily have the best level of English, you need to limit yourself to the 1,500 words of Globish (see Part I). With these carefully chosen words, you will be able to express yourself easily, but more importantly, you take advantage of all the chances you have to make yourself understood abroad and in international contexts. However, if you speak Globish for work, you will still need to use the specialized vocabulary of your field.
There you go! The second part of our summary to Jean-Paul Nerrière’s book “Don’t Speak English, Parlez Globish®”. The third and next part will explain the methods of actually learning Globish.
Note: I don’t at all mean to say that people should be satisfied with this light version of English — on the contrary. This article is a summary of a book on Globish, which allows you to fully express yourself and make yourself understood abroad. For those who would like to read English literature or even live in an English-speaking country, these 1,500 words simply will not be enough.
BONUS VIDEO: Abbe Explains How to Make Yourself Understood Abroad
Abbe made a video explaining these tips (and a few others!) in more detail. Scroll down to watch it, or watch it on our YouTube channel. Subtitles are available in six languages. Turn them on or slow down the video speed in the settings menu (click the gear icon).
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It’s a comprehensive 10-module course designed to help you improve every aspect of your spoken English – fluency, confidence, pronunciation, and more – step by step, and enjoy doing it.