Saturday, February 03, 2007

Confidence+Comfort=Better Speaking

I've noticed something these last few days. My Cantonese is FAR from being good, but what little that I know and have tried, no one has said that they couldn't understand me. I've heard so many stories about people struggling with Cantonese pronounciation and many Cantonese speakers not knowing what the gweilo is trying to say. But this hasn't happened to me (yet). I know I don't have great pronounciation. I hardly remember what tone goes with what syllable and I lack the patience to give it much thought when trying to say something.

I think this is the 'talk like you know what you are doing' effect. Basically, if you talk with confidence and comfort and barrel over any minor errors, you appear to be speaking well. To better illustrate, most esl students try to make their English perfect when they speak. Perfect grammar, perfect pronounciation, perfect use of expressions. But in their efforts, any mistakes become more pronounced since they are TRYING SO HARD to be perfect. The result is that the focus of the conversation is less on the message and more on the delivery. I liken this to driving on the freeway. If you try to follow the speed limits (grammar, pronounciation, etc.), your driving (speaking) becomes erratic because you are constantly trying to hit that 55mph mark by gassing and braking. Not smooth at all (I'm assuming you don't have cruise control). In addition, everyone else on the freeway (native speakers) are NOT following the speed limit and are shooting right past you or honking at you to get out of the way.

Anyways, long story short, perfect pronounciation is something we all strive for, but in the meantime, talk like you know how to talk, even if you have to fake it.

1 comment:

Public Speaking said...

Even people who have been speaking a language all their lives do not have perfect pronunciation or diction. It's like you said..give it a go.