It was just one word in one email, but it triggered huge financial losses for a multinational company.
The message, written in English, was sent by a native speaker to a colleague for whom English was a second language. Unsure of the word, the recipient found two contradictory meanings in his dictionary. He acted on the wrong one.
Months later, senior management investigated why the project had flopped, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. “It all traced back to this one word,” says Chia Suan Chong, aUK-based communications skills and intercultural trainer, who didn"t reveal the tricky word because it is highly industry-specific and possibly identifiable.“Things spiralled out of control because both parties were thinking the opposite.”
数月过去，该跨国公司的高管开始调查这个项目失败并损失几十万美元的原因。谢宣童（Chia Suan Chong）是一名交流技能和跨文化培训师，供职于一家总部设在英国的机构，她说：“所有的调查线索最终指向这个单词”。谢宣童没有透露具体这个单词，因为该单词是某行业专用词汇，透露该单词可能暴露这家跨国公司的身份。她还说：“由于双方的理解截然相反，事件不断升级，最终失控。”
When such misunderstandings happen, it’s usually the native speakers who are to blame. Ironically, they are worse at delivering their message than people who speak English as a second or third language, according to Chong.
A lot of native speakers are happy that English has become the world’s global language. They feel they don" t have to spend time learning another language,” says Chong.
The non-native speakers, it turns out, speak more purposefully and carefully, typical of someone speaking a second or third language. Anglophones, on the other hand, often talk too fast for others to follow, and use jokes, slang and references specific to their own culture, says Chong.
“The native English speaker… is the only one who might not feel the need to accommodate or adapt to the others,”she adds.
With non-native English speakers in the majority worldwide, it’s Anglophones who may need to up their game.
“Native speakers are at a disadvantage when you are in a lingua franca situation,” where English is being used as a common denominator, says Jennifer Jenkins, professor of global Englishes at the UK’s University of Southampton. “It’s the native English speakers that are having difficulty understanding and making themselves understood.”
Non-native speakers generally use more limited vocabulary and simpler expressions, without flowery language or slang. And then there’s cultural style, Blattner says. When a Brit reacts to aproposal by saying, “That’s interesting” a fellow Brit might recognise this asunderstatement for, “That’s rubbish.” But other nationalities would take the word “interesting” on face value, he says.
“English speakers with no other language often have a lack of awareness of how to speak English internationally.”
In Berlin, Coulter saw German staff of a Fortune 500 company being briefed from their Californian HQ via video link. Despite being competent in English, the Germans gleaned only the gist of what their American project leader said. So among themselves they came up with an agreed version, which might or might not have been what was intended by the California staff.
“Too many non-Anglophones, especially the Asians and the French, are too concerned about not ‘losing face’— and nod approvingly while not getting the message at all,” he says.
That’s why Nerriere devised Globish— a distilled form of English, stripped down to 1,500 words and simple but standard grammar. “It’s not a language, it’s a tool,” he says. Since launching Globish in 2004 he’s sold more than 200,000 Globish text books in 18 languages.
“If you can communicate efficiently with limited, simple language you save time, avoid misinterpretation and you don’t have errors in communication,” Nerriere says.
When trying to communicate in English with a group of people with varying levels of fluency, it’s important to be receptive and adaptable, tuning your ears into a whole range of different ways of using English, Jenkins says.
“People who’ve learned other languages are good at doing that, but native speakers of English generally are monolingual and not very good at tuning in to language variation,” she says.
In meetings, Anglophones tend to speed along at what they consider a normal pace, and also rush to fill gaps in conversation, according to Steggles.
He recommends making the same pointin a couple of different ways and asking for some acknowledgement, reaction or action.
Climate change is more than an environment issue; it also affects human existence and development. To clean up the environment and address global climate change, China needs to upgrade its coal-centered energy mix and industrial structure that leads to high pollution and high energy consumption. At the same time, addressing/combating climate change is China’s responsibility in global governance and an urgent requirement for sustainable development. As the world’s largest developing country, China needs to promote economic transformation and the upgrading of energy mix.
China has attached great importance to climate change for years. It has integrated climate change measures into national strategies for economic and social development, and green and low-carbon development into efforts to make ecological progress. Also, China has adopted a series of measures which significantly contribute to global efforts against climate change. Compared to 2015 levels, it has pledged to reduce carbon dioxide intensity of the economy by 40%-45%, increase the proportion/share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption by 15%, expand forest coverage by 40 million hectares, and increase forest growing stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020.
In priority sectors - including agriculture, forestry and water resources - and in cities, coastal regions and ecologically vulnerable regions, China will build mechanisms that are able to effectively counter the risks of climate change and strengthen capacity building.