Text book blight. Why do they and teachers teach adults to use elided forms?

Or why Spaniards sometimes seem unreliable – a business problem, a language solution.

A number of my Spanish business students make use of telephone conferencing when talking to contacts in other countries. Some use Skype and others use something a bit more expensive, but seldom is video conferencing used and frequently the main language is English.

Typical contact patterns are Spain – Poland [English], Spain – India [English], Spain – Thailand [English], Spain – UK – USA [English].

There are two major problems encountered in these exchanges that I have never found mentioned in the limited number of text books I have read. The first is caused by textbooks and teachers trying to teach ‘authentic’ English in particular contracted forms.

Can and can not or can´t – there is a Spanish tendency to not pronounce the final letter in consonant clusters very audibly. So can´t sounds like can to an English ear [a Spaniard will often hear another Spaniard saying can’t, so colleagues in the same room in a telephone conference know that the speaker is saying can’t but the English listener at the other end of the telephone conference only hears can. This tendency to hear can is compounded by the listener wanting to hear a positive answer.

UK We need delivery by next Wednesday
Spain – we can* do that
UK Good so we are agreed!
Spain – I said we can*
This ping-pong can carry on for a while, much to all parties frustration until:
UK OK, bye

Wednesday – no delivery

UK But those ****** Spaniards told us they could deliver – ******** siesta merchants.

While in Spain there is bafflement at how stupid their international contact are, but self congratulation that the Spanish were so polite – not being too direct and not using the dreaded no word.

And all because Spaniards are taught to say can’t (badly) and not to be too direct – because it is impolite.

Do your students also suffer from text book blight?

The second problem – subject of another blog and the solutions for both will appear under the misunderstanding page.


One Comment

  1. Harry
    Posted 04/07/2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink | Reply

    so true. I find if you tell them to imagine a car when they are using the negative and really extend the vowel sound.

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