Better English: Leaving Out Ambiguities

June 11, 2009

In many cultures, ambiguity is so entrenched in the culture that it comes as a built-in part of the language.  Majority of Asian cultures work this way, where there are as many words spoken are as are left unsaid.  ESL speakers from such cultures typically have a difficult time learning English for exactly that reason.

English is a straightforward language, where meaning is clearly and directly elucidated, with little ever assumed.  Native speakers seldom mince words and, as such, find no need to repeat themselves.  In fact, many of them find ESL speakers from countries like China and Korea odd in their habits of repeating words and  phrases, as if it wasn’t heard the first time.

If you grew up in such a culture and are hoping to gain a better grasp of the English language (either via special courses or a language software), realize that you’ll need to get rid of some very bad habits before being able to go after complete mastery.  Assertiveness is a trait almost as native to the language as its people and integrating it with your speech is almost as critical to successful communication as is mastering the vocabulary.

Showing Assertiveness In Language

There are various adjustments you can make to the way you speak in order to infuse it with a little more self-assurance. Try these on for size:

  • Avoid repeating words for the sake of making your point
  • Speak in a louder, more audible tone
  • Refrain from adding “maybe”, “appears” and “it seems” to every sentence you construct.  This is a painful error that 90% of ESL speakers I’ve met tend to do.
  • Practice constructing your sentences with just one subject and one verb, nothing more.