December 26, 2005

Repost: Barriers to English (1) – Fear -- by Bruce Lin

I once met a French guy who told me that he did not like to talk to some Taiwanese whose English was not good. Wait a minute, I thought, This guy's English had a strong French accent and was very difficult to understand, and he complained about our people's English! And he taught English!!

Another time, I was talking to a Japanese client over the phone. The connection of the phone line was good but something did not seem right. The client talked on and on and on in his Japanese-accented English – and the way he spoke made me question my English ability. Wait a minute, I'd been studying English hard and now this guy seemed to force me to adjust my English to suit his Japanese – or Japanese English, for that matter. And, why did he sound so confident? Where was that confidence from?

Most students I met, on the other hand, fear English. Likewise, it is a big question as to where the fear is from. The statement “My English is not good” is being heard over and over again, and it has become tiring to hear it. It sounds like asking for people's pity. Normally, you get it when asking for it.

But, just for a minute, and for the so many minutes that will follow, let's pretend our English is good. Think of the two great pretenders I met – the Frenchman and Japanese – who showed no fear when they talked; they didn't give a damn; they simply expressed. So when we speak, try to speak with force; when we write, write with ease, regardless of our English proficiency. You don't need to have good English to do so; no one does. With time, that pretending will become reality.


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