Sie sind auf Seite 1von 3

Difficulties In Speaking English

Describe situations when your use of spoken English has caused some problems for
you. Either the person you were speaking to didnt understand, got the wrong
message or may have even become offended by what you said (though this was not
your intention). Analyse the situation and explain why communication broke down.
You will need to reflect on your performance in light of what the literature says about
People live in the world of communication. According to the Oxford Dictionary of
Current English (Moore, 1997), communication is defined as, The activity or process
of expressing ideas and feelings or of giving people information. The significance of
communication can be found within the context of a human existing as a social being.
As a human being manages his or her life in the course of the interaction between
other members of the entire society, communication is inevitable. Communication
occurs through the medium of a language and it is presented in two different forms
which are written and spoken (Brown & Yule, 1983: 1-10). The importance of spoken
performance of a language is becoming more prominent over the written performance
capability. It is because the ability to speak a language reflects a persons personality,
self image, knowledge of the world, ability to reason, skill to express thoughts in realtime (Luoma, 2004: ix). These days, due to the global trend of internationalisation, the
ability to communicate in English is needed as an essential skill. Whenever the
international exchange happens, the use of spoken English entails. However, it is not
always an easy task for people who use English as a second language to be able to
speak to the level of a native speaker. They have to perfectly understand the sound
system of English, have almost instant access to proper vocabulary and be able to
place words together intelligibly without hesitation. Moreover, they also have to
perceive what is being said to them and need to be able to respond appropriately to
acquire amiable relations or to accomplish their communicative goals (Luoma, 2004:
ix). Therefore, non-native English speakers encounter these barriers and they are
subject to make mistakes often. In relation to this matter, this essay argues that there
are socio-cultural factors as well as linguistic factors that affect non-native speakers
communication in English. It provides analysis of several different situations when the
use of spoken English has generated miscommunication problems in regards to
authors personal experience. Based upon the analysis of different situations, this
essay also explores the reason for the miscommunication in relation to the difficulties
There are a number of elements that facilitate or impede successful spoken
communication. They can be divided in two types in general. One is linguistic factor
and the other is socio-cultural factor. The first type commonly refers to the elements
of English as a language itself, which include the grammar, vocabulary, and sound
systems (Robinett, 1978: 3-140). The latter part, which is cultural aspects, includes
history and worldview (ideology), socialisation, non-verbal communication, and social
organisation (Scollon & Scollon, 1995). In addition, according to Barraja-Rohan (2003:
101-15), it is argued that a number of socio-cultural elements such as verbosity
(including overlaps and silence), approaches to interpersonal relationships (including

proxemics, greetings, compliments and self-deprecation and small talk), and

politeness (including directness and indirectness) may affect communication. In short,
fluent English speaking becomes possible when the speaker is completely aware of
not only the linguistic aspect of the language, but also the social and cultural context
that the language is used. Thus, most of the ESL learners, who are not accustomed to
Reflecting on my personal experience, there were many occasions that caused
embarrassment and puzzlement from imperfect command of English. First of all, there
were numerous cases generated from insufficient knowledge of English grammar,
vocabulary, and pronunciation. For example, there was a problematic situation when I
first travelled the United States several years ago. During the conversation with the
Immigration Office personnel to check the visa, he questioned the purpose of the
visit. He was asking, Are you here for a holiday? I answered, No. I came here to
travel for a month. Mistakenly, I perceived the meaning of the question as if I would
stay in that country only for a short period of weekend or a national holiday. This
happened from the misunderstanding of the exact meaning that the word has. There
are a few more instances that occurred in the same vein. It was when I travelled in
San Francisco. I was walking down the street carrying a bag from shopping. I
happened to meet a person and we had a small conversation. He asked me what I
bought from shopping and I answered that I purchased a muffler. He asked me
again, so I showed him what I had bought to prove. Then he said that was a scarf and
explained that people prefer to use a scarf to a muffler. Another case happened
from the error in grammar. One day, I had a dinner with an American friend and we
had a walk, having a conversation. He asked me what I felt like to do later. I
answered, Im boring. I want to have a drink at the bar. At that moment, I should
have said, Im bored. instead of Im boring. to express dullness that I had.
When ESL learners communicate with native speakers in English, many problems are
caused by the misinterpretation of cultural factors continued through the whole
circumstance of communication. As Paulston (1992: 39) says, communication is not a
simple term, but it is a concept basic to understanding social and cultural interaction.
From my personal experience, I remember that there were lots of situations caused by
the confliction of the socio-cultural concept which differs from culture to culture. The
reasons for unsuccessful communication were resided in the personal space, privacy,
and the eye contact in my cases. As many other Korean people do, I also tend to
softly tap or grab on the shoulder or arm of the next person when I extremely agree
with his or her opinion. For example, when I was having a chat in English with
American friends, I unconsciously happened to touch one of my friends hands
slightly. Although we were having funny jokes until then, her face turned with a bit of
surprise at the moment and there was a pause in our conversation. This
uncomfortableness that she felt was derived from the invasion of personal space
when I touched a part of her body. Barraja-Rohan said (2003: 105) the dissimilar
proxemics varying according to different cultures may cause communication
problems. And I remember another experience when I stayed at a youth hostel with a
few other American students. People came to know each other and occasionally, we

had a chat. One time, I asked one of them a series of questions such as, Where are
you going? and What are you doing tonight? Those did not really possess the literal
meanings in them, but they were rather to start the conversation. However, he
answered almost nothing to me. Later on, he expressed a sign of his upsetting mind
from those questioned that sounded as if I meant to interfere with his personal life.
There were some problems because of the eye contact. When I had a serious
conversation with my Canadian manager at work, it was hard for me to keep eye
contact even though I did not have any intention to disguise something or deceive
him. This habit came from Korean culture that interpreting continuous eye contact as
a meaning of ill-mannered behaviour. However, in most of the western cultures,
especially the countries using English language, the eye contact during the
conversation is essential and has a positive meaning. Therefore, whenever I avoided
the eye contact, my Canadian manager stopped and repeated, Are you sure? or Are
you listening to me? with his face in doubt.