English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) seems to be a very accommodating kind of English. It’s spoken by people with different abilities in English using non-standard forms and bringing different sociopragmatic norms to the table. Heck, you’ve got to be accommodating to speak ELF.
ELF conversations seem to be characterised by folks trying to get along, and if they can’t understand what someone’s saying, rather than fix it they’ll often let it pass. I do this all the time myself when I’m speaking French – smile, nod and hope all will become clear later. And of course I do get caught out, but it’s surprising how often I get away with it.
I’ve just come across a terrific MA dissertation by Matthew Watterson on communication strategies in trouble talk in ELF – available on the web here . (Free research!) The ELF speakers in Matthew’s study often cited ‘face’ issues as their reason for not fixing things. It was going to be embarrassing to stop the course of the conversation to negotiate meaning, so why do that unless you absolutely have to?
Here is Jay Leno (a ‘merican native speaker) with a tale about not fixing things:
Ah, sadly the video has disappeared since I posted it. _ sorry folks!
So what caused Jay’s breakfast woes here? Could they have been avoided without anyone losing face? And is anyone in particular responsible: the chef, Jay or someone else perhaps?
And I wonder if we all need to be equally accommodating here when we’re divvying up the responsibility for locating and avoiding pitfalls and fixing things? Or might native speakers bear extra responsibilities for achieving shared meaning?