Well, let’s start with where it doesn’t come from.
It’s not, as you might have heard, an acronym of North, East, West, and South. This is a popular misconception, usually claimed to be based on the idea that news comes from all directions.
While this sounds cute, it’s really not the way words are formed at all. As I’ve pointed out before.
Instead, the truth is a bit stranger.
Would you surprised that learner is a very-commonly used English word in other languages? Well, not exactly the word learner itself, but the L-plate used on cars to indicate that the driver is a learner. I’d been driving in Belgium for a while, and had noticed that their L-plates are a blue background with a white L, as opposed to the Irish white with a red L. But I never stopped to consider that the L stood for Learner (the French translation would be apprenant or apprenti). Never, that is, until I saw a French learner driver…
When is good English a disadvantage?
When you’re in business.
Well, it’s not so simple obviously, but I was intrigued by an article on the BBC Capital website entitled Why Foreigners Hate English Speakers (well, the title is actually Native English Speakers are the World’s Worst Communicators, but the former was the carrot to entice me to click on it). Now I knew that the BBC were indulging in a little clickbaiting with such a provocative title, and that the actual content would be a lot milder than it promised, but still, I was curious.
And it was an interesting read. The basic gist of it is that non-native English speakers often have trouble understanding native speakers in business situations. This isn’t too surprising, as a native speaker is going to speak more quickly than a non-native speaker, and use more idioms (which may even be quite localised) which can be hard to understand. This can be particularly problematic for English speakers, as we often don’t have as much experience of learning a language to a reasonable level compared to those who’ve had to learn English, so we don’t usually realise how to adapt our speech to make ourselves fully understood. I see this cause problems all the time, but usually nothing serious. In business, however, it’s a different matter. Continue reading