Accents and register

How to be a Brit

The Hungarian journalist and BBC reporter, George (György) Mikes – pronounced / ɱ ‘i: ke ʃ  / – commented wryly in his bookHow To Be An Alien(1946), a classic of “British humour”, when – as a foreigner in England – he realised the importance of having a “suitable” accent:

“My dear, you really speak a most wonderful accent, without the slightest English!”

HowToBeAnAlien
Accents are of course connected to our origins and culture. There are national, regional and individual accents and these can link a person to social class, educational background, and character.

Who am I?
As many academics have shown over many years, the whole concept of one’s identity as a person cannot be separated from language. Languages express emotions, facts, notions of time, space and morality, in different ways, and arise as the communication surface structure built on generations of history, tradition, law, belief and education. How we perform depends on first how we understand, process and compose language.

Outcomes-based coaching and learning

Outcomes-based coaching and learning

There is the larger question of how English, as an international language, can serve to perform acts of identity that are specific to one’s own language. As linguists have tried to show, all languages share some deeper, innate, structure or else how could the same human being, theoretically, be born anywhere on the planet?

Mikes started his famous book with the words “In England, everything is the other way round”.

Culture itself cannot be entirely systematised, despite the efforts of anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists. Along with dress and other customs and habits, language is the outside sign of what a person deems themself to be. Actors, who play the part of another culturally different person, in the theatre, see this very clearly.

Consequently, as soon as we open our mouth, we “give away” something about who we are and how we wish to be perceived by others.  The process of “acculturation” – the process of internalising the implied rules of a “discourse community” – is something that anyone who lives or works with other language groups or nations, understands from day one. Culture “shock” can be one outcome of this difficult process. Bridging differences effectively, means using language very skilfully and being sensitive to culture.

conversation

Isn’t it?
For the learner of a second language, there results from this the thorny question of how to sound right. In some ways this leaves one free to choose the model one prefers, to “sound” correct in whatever circles that person happens to frequent.

It’s quite well-known that the use of question “tags” is a feature of spoken English:
“It’s a lovely day, today, isn’t it?”
“Oh yes, they said it was going to rain, didn’t they.”
“It’s so nice when it’s hot, isn’t it.”
“Yes I love it, don’t you?”
As George Mikes observed, “In England, you must never contradict anybody  when discussing the weather.”

Similarly, the words Yes and No – straightforward as these may seem – are loaded with difficulty, and cultural overtones, when we say “Yes” but mean “Maybe”; or when we say “No, I don’t mind at all” – and mean “That’s absolutely fine!”

In addition to the vexed question of “British understatement”, there is the related issue of the “proxemics” of a given culture and the register of particular words and phrases. How should we “act”? How close should we stand to another person? How soon is it appropriate to ask a personal question? How direct or indirect is it appropriate to be? The exact combination of phonetic training, listening to sounds, using the voice and breathing in order to “come across” with confidence and fluency, is something that requires a thorough analysis and discussion.

Contact us to find out more!

How do we measure success?

Bluebird water speed

What is success?

Certainly, from a coaching perspective, it is reaching one’s goals.

The famous holder of the world land speed record (and on water too), Malcolm Campbell, famously said:

“When you have reached your goal, set yourself another“.


Bluebird Proteus CN7 Donald Campbell landspeed record car
His son, Donald, continued the proud tradition of tempting fate and taking speed to the limit.

Some might say, it’s important to know when you have done enough!

We have met and worked with hundreds of people, some who needed to go “just that little bit further” and others who had a “mountain to climb” or who “made huge improvements in no time at all”!

Our job is, that by giving prompts and tools the client is empowered to make inner changes themselves; the coach is a facilitator, not some kind of guru!

Everyone is a kind of expert who can tell you how to do things and what to do. But actually the only expert on you is YOU.

Just as only YOU can interpret the messages in your dream, 20 people can give the same presentation but it will be different in each case. Some will connect with their audience but others will not? Why is this?

This is where a great coach can make a world of difference.

Acting when the time is right, making the critical decision, knowing when to act and when not to, and acting swiftly and decisively, or taking one’s time to think things through.

The difference between winning that business contract or not; the difference between being successful in something or not; between becoming excellent at something, and going far enough to know what success feels like.

 

donald campbell and k7 crew

What are you thinking about?

Cherubs with bumble bee small

Cherubs with bumble bee (after Michelangelo)

As visitors to this site and blog may know, Peter is a painter, and enjoys the rare times he finds to paint.

Painting offers an opportunity to reflect on life and to decide how we derive pleasure from the many things we see, do and experience.

The whole process of thinking opens up doors that sometimes prefer to remain shut!

There are many things said nowadays about how our thoughts influence our feelings, actions and experience of life.

From the idea that we should train our mind to see good in every situation and the idea that positive thinking creates energy, initiative and happiness, comes the opposite one – which follows from the first – that “the discontent and frustration you feel is entirely your own creation”.

This, however, is not at all fair to the person whose thoughts are sometimes a jumble of conflicting voices.

From an NLP perspective, the words we hear inside our head are not our own but often borrowed from what we have heard, seen and felt, from others.

What’s important is to clear up the ones that we have borrowed from elsewhere and have become ‘stuck’ – and those that reflect our deeper and lasting goals.

This is so important when we are coaching.

Learning a language can provide an opening to a whole new way of experiencing the world.

Things suddenly become very clear when we see them in new ways!

Lau Tzu B&W
We cannot stop thinking – though as the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu believed:  Stop thinking, and end your problems!
Certainly it helps to be able to switch off one’s wandering thoughts and focus on the discipline that being with a coach, provides…. at  P.I.E. above all, we focus on a relaxing and thought-provoking approach that enriches the experience the learner is having, whilst helping them to avoid the pitfalls of over-thinking, which can be confusing and counter-productive!

It’s about doing inspiring things that will always be remembered, not trying to force learning!

As another great thinker – Plutarch – said,

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled. 

Plutarch B&W

 

 

 

 

 

New blogs!

PIEbutton RussianUK

Beginning a new series of blogs this Spring, we’d like to welcome those who visit this page via our new association with RussianUK magazine!

Watch this space for blogs on all manner of subjects:

  • building confidence (English for non-native speakers)
  • giving a presentation with impact
  • going for an audition or interview
  • tools to access your subconscious
  • how to override your nerves to raise your performance
  • listening to really understand what someone means

And much, much more!