Monday, 31 January 2011

Something in the way you speak

It is the annual sales conference. It is being held in a country in Europe which is - to be brutally honest - very flat. The location is somewhat grim and desolate although I am told there is a beach nearby should I feel the need to go running. I probably will, very soon.

That aside, what I wanted to touch on in this post, is languages. So many of them, so little time to devote to learning them all.

I pride myself on having a good ear for languages. The upside of this is that even if a language is unknown to me, after a few hours of full immersion I am usually able to communicate and understand my peers. It may involve rather a lot of hand gestures and some peculiar pronunciations, but by and large the effort pays off.

The downside is that I often find myself involuntarily imitating picking up accents, although typically this is more applicable when I am conversing with people who hail from the Emerald Isle, Canada, South Africa, Down Under, New Zealand or Newcastle. As in upon Tyne.

Less so of course if it involves a country where the native language is not English. Then I just morph into a poor version of Alastair McGowan with an Italian accent.

Anyway, at this week's sales conference I have been amazed by the number of colleagues who are conversing fluently in English, when this is not their mother tongue. Regardless of accents, there has been a common denominator, and I salute this. The whole conference could have just as easily been conducted entirely in French. Or German. Or Dutch.

A mere handful of words though have given the presenters a few problems with regard to pronunciation. What were they? Oh, you know. nothing too far-fetched: diarrhea (in place of diary), shit (sheet), and - my favourite - fuckers (focus).

Not bad, all in all.


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