Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The to Stay or to Go Effect

You think you speak a foreign language until you go to the country of that specific language and you get to order a coffee in a bar. Usually then you realize you know nothing about English, for instance, and you fall in a deep depression.

I've gone through this tough moment a several times and in order to overcome the frustation that goes with I've done a long research and came out with some findings that I share with you. i hope they'll help you.

You are staring at the bartender and you think for yourself: "I don't undersand them because of their accent, I've learned English from South England and these guys are American, Australian, Scottish, or whatever". WRONG!!!!!

Here's my theory, it is not a language/pronunciation problem, it is a RITUAL problem. You usually understand everything the bartender tells you until you hit a point that differs from the same situation you would have in your country. Example, in Spain a Bartender never asks you if you want your coffee to stay or to go, and that's the point where you dont' understand him!!!

You are used to your daily rituals, and in Spain having your coffee implies A+B+D, you unconsciously know this. But when you go somewhere else, maybe the coffee ritual has an extra step A+B+C+D. Lesson open your mind an be aware of the To Stay or To Go Effect, that's probably the missing link that's causing the misunderstanding.

Happily I've solved my language depressions and now I have to deal with the "I'm too much in my paradign, and not open enough to new stimulus" depression. It's a never ending story!!


Oriol said...

My "to stay or to go" effect with English started when I was 12 and traveled abroad for the first time... I was traveling to Manchester to learn (real) English and I had been studying the language (and being the best in my class) for 3 years... I'll skip details but, as all English learners (at least the Spanish ones), I had learned the expression "how old are you" in order to ask someone's age... well, I fell into deep depression when at the Amsterdam airport (where I was stopping by) I was asked: "what's your age"... and understood nothing till she repeated 3 times and as slowly as she could...
Therefore, for the first time being, Alex: I agree with you ;)

Antonio Monerris said...

That’s a lovely thinking about language. In fact you are considering facts that usually are far from our daily experience, because language is part of a cultural context. Language is also behavior. The question is not specific language understanding but real and tight sharing and sense of belonging. Certainly language is a system that allows to exchange and package information.. But also, and maybe fundamentally, is part of structure that help us life and share. In fact, we have a shared reality (Catalonian language) that proof that language is more than a system to exchange information. Even if the Catalonian citizens have a poor knowledge of the language (being almost illiterate as myself) Catalonian becomes a powerful liaison, because express a sense of commonality. For example people like me, that tends to use Spanish regularly, express values and attitudes in Spanish language in an specific way. Spanish is my language, but not necessarily my culture or at least not my culture if it not includes the specific “vision” of my Catalonian cultural context.
By the way, Obviously English is not my usual language, but I hope your blog.readers will be able to understand this considerations.