terça-feira, 3 de julho de 2012

Portuguese within your English - A Blurry Communication Issue


It is quite challenging to keep our English updated and see any kind of improvement at a certain level of the language acquisition. Especially if we get to a level where we can communicate well and we haven’t got anymore those blanks that used to be so common when we started talking in English. We keep studying and studying, but we can´t see any progress and we seem to be skidding on our English classes with no real input acquisition. However, a thing that a learner at this level should comprehend is that, despite their ignorance of any kind of progress, there is something happening inside their brain that they really need to know: the Portuguese language control is being put apart from their second language as they get acquainted with the process of learning it in an advanced level.

As most Learners must know, one of the main problems of learning a second language is the influence of the native language in the process of communicating something. Sometimes, we think that we are speaking English, but in fact, we are talking in Portuguese with English words. This transference from the native language happens not only with the so-called false cognates, but mainly with cultural behaviors or mannerisms of the first language that interfere within the communication of the second language causing errors and misunderstandings.

The best way to avoid this transference and interference is to observe the way some sentences are built, especially in written English. See below some examples:

1. For basic learners, the confusion with the verbs “to have” and “there is/are” is quite common:

Eu tenho um carro. = Eu possuo um carro. - I have a car.

Tem (há) um livro sobre a mesa. = Existe um livro sobre a mesa. - There's a book on the table.

2. For intermediate learners, the language interference happens with “for” and “to”:

Para aprender, é necessário estudar. - It's necessary to study, in order to learn.

Isto é um instrumento para medir velocidade. - This is an instrument for measuring speed.

3. For Advanced learners, the problem comes with the cultural differences that appear in some contexts:

“ I will be waiting for your reply” (eu aguardo o seu contato) – I am looking forward to hear from you.

Most learners, mainly the advanced ones, ask me if there is anything they can do in order to avoid it, well, there is not an easy answer for that besides keep recasting it and the best way to recast this interference is to review your previous texts and try to analyze any Portuguese on it.

But how can we do it?

We can start by reading it aloud and think thoroughly about those parts of the texts where it doesn’t sound quite English or the fragments of it, whose meaning seems quite blurry. Have you heard about Blurry Communication?

The blurry communication phenomenon is known as "too much talking about nothing" or using other words: they look like they are speaking something, when in fact, they are saying complete nonsense.

That’s why the use of the concept “ less is more” is always handy for all the learners at the advanced level. Another tip, especially for spoken English, is by asking clarifying questions (Did you get it? Do you know what I mean?). All in all, the influence and the interference of the native language will be always there and the best way to solve this matter is to keep studying and increasing the distance from one language to the other.
As far as I know, the best way to perceive that is writing.

What have you written lately in English?

Professor Frank Oliveira

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