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Non-native English speakers' emphatic method

A discussion of the peculiarities of languages and the differences between them.

Non-native English speakers' emphatic method

Postby dsteve54 » Mon Nov 19, 2007 6:32 pm

I happen to know some people from Russia, Bangalore, and Saudi Arabia; they have various degrees of English competence.

For some reason, the following scenario comes up frequently.

The person is trying to make a point, and is pausing for effect. In America, we might say something like:

"Consider this:" (pregnant pause)....stated point.

I tend to hear this from them.

"Think about this one:" (pregnant pause)...stated point. What is even more charming is the fact that the intonational center of the phrase could be on ANY word. In fact sometimes it is said with a major IC and then a minor one, creating a sort of charming sing-song effect.

I was wondering if there was any particular reason via ESL instruction that they may be phrasing their intent in this manner.

Unfortunately, the phrase and the way they apply intonation to that particular phrase is so infectious, that I have found myself unconsciously using it with other Americans. Since I tend to interact quite abit with people who are not native English speakers, for some reason, their little phraseologies tend to rub off on me. Of course, upon hearing this from me, other Americans tend to look at me fish-eyed, or at best chuckle. (I am "otherwise" a native Kansan).

Any insights on why an ESL-educated person would tend to use this phrase? I would probably think nothing of it except that I have heard it from more than one culture.
Known in restaurant circles by quasi-Thai moniker, "That Guy" (e.g. heard in the back.."that guy is here again"; "that guy on/at table 10"; "that guy is going for a sirloin again", etc.)

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Re: Non-native English speakers' emphatic method

Postby Bailey » Mon Nov 19, 2007 7:07 pm

dsteve54 wrote:"Think about this one:" (pregnant pause)...stated point. What is even more charming is the fact that the intonational center of the phrase could be on ANY word. In fact sometimes it is said with a major IC and then a minor one, creating a sort of charming sing-song effect


lol, I had a Philippino friend once who would say, "Why should "I"." when asked if he wanted to do something or to anything that requires that response without the emphasis, I found it disconcerting and surprising.

mark singing-intonatoins Bailey

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Postby dsteve54 » Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:54 pm

I forgot to mention that the same contingent of people are likely to respond with this phrase, when told some bad news:

"Ok, that is not a good one."

Why the "ok", I don't know; it must be a universal word people feel they must throw in. Once again, there is the ubiquitous "one" word extraneously embedded. As in the other phrase, the intonational center could be on ANY word and it may have secondary intonations anywhere. Again, it sounds sort of charming.

I would have expected to hear an American phrase like:
"Oh, that's too bad" , "oh, you got gypped", or even just something like "ugh!" but instead, that is what is likely to be said.

Then, I am taking by surprise sometimes, when I would "expect" a tiny expression of sympathy, even just as a mannerism in American society. e.g.

"I had to call off the plane trip because I had a sudden case of the flu."

You might expect, as a manner of etiquette, that a person might say: "Oh, that's awful". However, maybe as a contraction of the above phrase, the response may be:
"Ok" with nothing following it. American speakers might expect a little trailer, but it is simply an "ok" in isolation, even though I know that they understand the situation. It just causes me to smile.

I do believe non-native speakers of English love to say "ok".
Known in restaurant circles by quasi-Thai moniker, "That Guy" (e.g. heard in the back.."that guy is here again"; "that guy on/at table 10"; "that guy is going for a sirloin again", etc.)

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Postby Bailey » Thu Nov 22, 2007 7:09 pm

Then there is the free use of gerunds as though the mentioned activity is continually ongoing.

I believe this is not such a popular thread but I'm trying.

mark maybe-we're-too-insular Bailey

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Postby Perry » Fri Nov 23, 2007 11:25 am

The word/phrase OK is often used to indicate comprehension.
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Postby dsteve54 » Sun Nov 25, 2007 6:52 pm

Perry wrote:The word/phrase OK is often used to indicate comprehension.


That is a simple but interesting observation with reference to the mentioned context. Even though the non-native speaker may just use it as an indication that they are receiving your message, Americans might expect a trailer sometimes, especially when they have related some news. If the foreign speaker had an intonation that indicated that it was a hanging thought, that would be fine. But their intonation is that of a declarative sentence. As in:

"My dog died last week."
Response: Ok. (falling intonation)

However, as you obliquely point out, some cultures simply state "I am hearing you"...in Russian (using transliteration), they may simply say "SLOOSH-ah-yu" which is present tense (imperfective) for "I'm listening", in various contexts. And they may say that in a declarative intonation. It just sounds a little odd to me sometimes.

Also, I think "ok"/"okay", etc is widely adapted as a cognate by now in many world languages. I think sometimes when people know a word and get "excited" about it, they may use it in several contexts that do not end up seeming quite right. For example, I can see that when Russians learn articles (e.g. a, an, the), they may overapply them....I have seen official forms filled out using articles liberally. I believe they are trying to understand the correct context and are just overly painstaking:

"Occupation: The engineer"

etc.
Known in restaurant circles by quasi-Thai moniker, "That Guy" (e.g. heard in the back.."that guy is here again"; "that guy on/at table 10"; "that guy is going for a sirloin again", etc.)

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Postby dsteve54 » Sun Nov 25, 2007 6:58 pm

Bailey wrote:Then there is the free use of gerunds as though the mentioned activity is continually ongoing.

I believe this is not such a popular thread but I'm trying.

mark maybe-we're-too-insular Bailey

I need to get out more and acquaint myself with mini-mart workers


Thanks for your input. For one thing, I doubt that people are going to suspend their Thanksgiving plans (at least stateside) to rush, with bated breath, to Alpha Agora.

"maybe-we're-too-insular"....made me laugh. Yeah, maybe so!

Also, I sometimes make submissions in a sort of neutral way, similar to blogging. They may or may not invite comments and that is fine either way. I suppose if I truly need a response, I will make it more evident. But thanks for reading and responding! I see that Perry added something also.
Known in restaurant circles by quasi-Thai moniker, "That Guy" (e.g. heard in the back.."that guy is here again"; "that guy on/at table 10"; "that guy is going for a sirloin again", etc.)

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Postby gailr » Sun Nov 25, 2007 7:03 pm

dsteve54 wrote:Then, I am taking by surprise sometimes,

[snip]

It just causes me to smile.


dsteve, I'd let this go if your topic wasn't unexpected English. So I must ask: does "I am taking by surprise" indicate that you are in a perpetual, active state of being "taken by surprise"? (Or is it just a mondegreen?) :-)

OK - gailr
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Postby dsteve54 » Sun Nov 25, 2007 9:04 pm

gailr wrote:
dsteve54 wrote:Then, I am taking by surprise sometimes,

[snip]

It just causes me to smile.


dsteve, I'd let this go if your topic wasn't unexpected English. So I must ask: does "I am taking by surprise" indicate that you are in a perpetual, active state of being "taken by surprise"? (Or is it just a mondegreen?) :-)

OK - gailr


No, I would not call it a mondegreen.

As far as using "taking", I was hearing "taken" in my mind and wrote "taking". I do not often proofread my submissions; I simply write from stream of consciousness. On this particular site, I try not to short-circuit grammar altogether, but I still make mistakes. I suppose some of my gaffes can be attributed to bald-faced aging.

However, now that you mention it, I am not even sure that "I am taken by surprise" (which was my intended phrase) is correct grammar. So that is fine if people want to correct my English.

I am not the best grammarian. However, if everybody using this board was required to be perfect, maybe there would be some credential requirement for signing up, a la St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. So until that day, I don't concern myself with my mistakes.

If contributors want to parse down and pick my sentences apart, it does not bother me either way. Sometimes I do learn that I was doing something wrong, and sometimes I know that I just erred while composing quickly. It is all ok.
Last edited by dsteve54 on Sun Nov 25, 2007 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Known in restaurant circles by quasi-Thai moniker, "That Guy" (e.g. heard in the back.."that guy is here again"; "that guy on/at table 10"; "that guy is going for a sirloin again", etc.)

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Postby Bailey » Sun Nov 25, 2007 9:13 pm

hmmm, I see why you are known as "that guy" :D , we enjoy funny things and we all make silly mistakes, and yes we will disect your sentances. We also laugh at ourselves too, so
welcome o the AlphaAgora.

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Postby dsteve54 » Sun Nov 25, 2007 9:34 pm

Sometimes I smile when I read someone's thread and the entire question or issue is bypassed in favor of some grammar discussion.

So the entire crux of the issue might never be ultimately entertained, and the creator is just left dangling in the wake of a hijacked thread. By no means do I feel "singled out", but I have had it happen to me.

In that sense, it seems like creating "tempests in teapots", so it makes me smile. It seems analagous to frantically waving semaphore flags to indicate ship in distress and having the receivers look through the binoculars, debating about how the sender was using flags of the wrong color.
:D
Known in restaurant circles by quasi-Thai moniker, "That Guy" (e.g. heard in the back.."that guy is here again"; "that guy on/at table 10"; "that guy is going for a sirloin again", etc.)

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Postby Bailey » Mon Nov 26, 2007 10:42 am

So, just hijack it back. Actually I was enjoying your treatises on why certain other language groups would respond the way they do, Try not to take us too seriously, do carry on.

mark non-sequitor Bailey

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Re: Non-native English speakers' emphatic method

Postby Stargzer » Fri Jan 04, 2008 12:02 am

dsteve54 wrote: ... I tend to hear this from them.

"Think about this one:" (pregnant pause)...stated point. What is even more charming is the fact that the intonational center of the phrase could be on ANY word. In fact sometimes it is said with a major IC and then a minor one, creating a sort of charming sing-song effect.


Without the "one" it sounds OK to me; even with it I understand it. In fact, if they are introducing an additional point that's different from others already made, it may make sense to emphasize its uniqueness.


I was wondering if there was any particular reason via ESL instruction that they may be phrasing their intent in this manner.


I'd guess it's a melding of English grammar and their native grammar. It would be like an English speaker forgetting to put the le/la/les (the (masc, fem, plural)) in front of a noun in French, or putting in an article when it's not required in French.

Unfortunately, the phrase and the way they apply intonation to that particular phrase is so infectious, that I have found myself unconsciously using it with other Americans. Since I tend to interact quite abit with people who are not native English speakers, for some reason, their little phraseologies tend to rub off on me. Of course, upon hearing this from me, other Americans tend to look at me fish-eyed, or at best chuckle. (I am "otherwise" a native Kansan).


Again, that could be from their native language. From what I undestand, French is monotone up until the last word of a sentence. As an English speaker, I tend to stress words for effect in the middle of a sentence.

Any insights on why an ESL-educated person would tend to use this phrase? I would probably think nothing of it except that I have heard it from more than one culture.


They all learned from the same book? :D Perhaps it's a British form of speech? We are a people divided by a common language, as Churchill said.
Regards//Larry

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Postby Stargzer » Fri Jan 04, 2008 12:29 am

dsteve54 wrote:I forgot to mention that the same contingent of people are likely to respond with this phrase, when told some bad news:

"Ok, that is not a good one."

Why the "ok", I don't know; it must be a universal word people feel they must throw in. Once again, there is the ubiquitous "one" word extraneously embedded. As in the other phrase, the intonational center could be on ANY word and it may have secondary intonations anywhere. Again, it sounds sort of charming.

I would have expected to hear an American phrase like:
"Oh, that's too bad" , "oh, you got gypped", or even just something like "ugh!" but instead, that is what is likely to be said.


I might say, "Ooooooh, that's not good!" It would depend upon the bad news and how it was delivered.

My car broke down on the way to work.
Oh, that's too bad.

The mechanic charged my $150.00 for an oil change.
Oh, you got gypped! or Oh, boy, did you get screwed!

I totaled my car on the way in to work this morning, and it isn't paid off yet.
Ooooooh, that's not good!


Then, I am taking by surprise sometimes, when I would "expect" a tiny expression of sympathy, even just as a mannerism in American society. e.g.

"I had to call off the plane trip because I had a sudden case of the flu."

You might expect, as a manner of etiquette, that a person might say: "Oh, that's awful". However, maybe as a contraction of the above phrase, the response may be:
"Ok" with nothing following it. American speakers might expect a little trailer, but it is simply an "ok" in isolation, even though I know that they understand the situation. It just causes me to smile.

I do believe non-native speakers of English love to say "ok".


That may be something cultural, something to do with privacy or not intruding upon someone's troubles. I remember reading a few years back about cultural differences.

For instance, in an arabic culture you were never supposed to ask a man how his wife is; his children, perhaps. One American was travelling in an arab country with his young daughter. When she had to go to the bathroom he was in a quandry. She was too young to go alone, and over here he might just take her into the men's room (as I had to once with my daughter), since they at least have stalls. He ended up asking a man if he could ask his wife to the daughter to the ladies' room.

In America, when someone hands you his business card you might look at it quickly but you'll probably put it in your shirt pocket. In Japan, they would take it with both hands and carefully look at it, then put it in a special small box or case made to keep cards in. All to show a sign of respect for the other party.

In some cultures the people might lean towards you. In others, if you lean towards them they are uncomfortable and lean back.

We won't even go into idoms here, like the British "Do you want to knock me up in the morning?" Well, maybe a quick one. A friend at work told me that when her parents first met in Washington, DC, her father asked his date "What shall we do?" Her mother replied, "I don't know; do you want to go to a hotel?" No, he didn't hit the jackpot, at least not then; she was from a part of Quebec back when only hotels had cocktail lounges, so that's where one went to get a drink.
:lol:
Regards//Larry

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Postby Stargzer » Fri Jan 04, 2008 12:35 am

dsteve54 wrote: ... I think sometimes when people know a word and get "excited" about it, they may use it in several contexts that do not end up seeming quite right. For example, I can see that when Russians learn articles (e.g. a, an, the), they may overapply them....I have seen official forms filled out using articles liberally. I believe they are trying to understand the correct context and are just overly painstaking:

"Occupation: The engineer"

etc.


It could also be, as I mentioned in a previous post, that their native language requires the article with the noun, and they forget to drop it in places where it's not in English.

Can you imagine what they'd make of the phrases I'd've or I could'a'? Thank God for the English apostrophe!
Regards//Larry

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