My female friend was shocked, frightened and offended by the man’s rude remark.
YOU HAVE BEAUTIFUL TEETS.
When the man saw the worried expression on my friend’s face – he knew he had said something wrong.
He desperately tried to gesture to make his meaning clear – YOUR TEETS – I LIKE YOUR TEETS. YOUR BEAUTIFUL TEETS!
He moved closer to explain. She moved back in fear – then she understood.
YOUR TEETS – he said pointing to his own TEETS (his teeth)
You see, this man suffered from what is a common problem for many people who speak English as a Second Language.
Many ESL speakers (Including Turkish and Hindi and French and German) have trouble saying the sound TH. The sound does not exist or is not common in their language.
So I recommend that you:
1.practise until you master the TH sound or
2.add a visual clarifier – e.g. pointing to your TEETs.
Better still: avoid the word TEETS or TEETH – and say something like I LIKE YOUR SMILE
In a future post I’ll discuss how many people who speak other languages such as GERMAN – say ZE instead of THE and SINK instead of THINK.
Now my experience is mainly with helping business people improve their written or spoken English.
My work is mainly confined to business matters rather than the broader English in all other parts of life.
I help executives improve their spoken presentations.
People from different language background have challenges with different sounds. Because certain sounds do not exist or are very rare in their native languages, the speakers have trouble hearing that they are saying the words incorrectly.
People from different Asian backgrounds often pronounce Rs and Ls.
People from many South American (and Spanish-speaking) background pronounce Vs as Bs.
I will often get people to practise their presentation and I listen out for problem words and then we work at finding solutions.
If there is time I will highlight the problem words and we work hard to make the correct sound.
If there is not time, we have a quicker solution – we will add visuals or the WRITTEN words in presentations so the audience will know what the person is trying to say.
For example, if the man in this story pointed to his TEETs as he said his words, the misunderstanding could have been avoided.
Another “problem” many non-native English speakers have is adding S for plurals when the word is already plural for example teeth not teeths and children not childrens.
These unnecessary plurals are other problems we “catch and fix” in the presentation practise!
If you have any work colleagues from different language backgrounds who could benefit from my coaching, please contact me. I get great results in identifying the potential “dangers” and helping speakers avoid the problems.
I have plenty of experience in helping speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, German, Middle Eastern). I’ve even helped Brits and Americans and Canadians avoid embarrassment when presenting to Australian audiences.
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