Great blog post

12 02 2007

One of the blogs I read is Pamela Slim’s excellent “Escape from Cubicle Nation“. Her posts are invariably insightful and offer some great tips. But the one from Jan 24, 2007 was exceptionally good, in my opinion: “How not to be a cultural knucklehead in a global business world“.

As an Australian who lived in Canada for a year, who has travelled to the US more times than I can think of right now, who has travelled to other places such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines, Fiji, Tahiti, New Zealand, England and Wales, I related closely to her post and many of the follow-up comments.

Whenever I have presented at conferences in the US, I am very aware that colloquialisms and idioms that are part of my everyday language do not necessarily translate very well. Likewise, I have to slow my speech down a little to compensate for the ‘accent’. Just look for the glazed looks… they’re a sure indicator that you’re either boring, talking too fast, or using expressions that your audience doesn’t understand or relate to.

In the comments on Pamela’s post there were several about the confusion between distinguishing Americans (those from the US – that term was discussed too!) and Canadians. It’s no different to those in other countries confusing Australians and New Zealanders, even in some cases confusing the Australians with those from the UK or South Africa!

And I always find it amusing that those in the US think I have an ‘accent’, yet don’t believe that they do.

One thing though, that does irk me, is this propensity for US sport to have “World” competitions, yet no-one else in the world ever plays… just the US teams. It’s as though that’s the only ‘world’.

Anyhow, spend 5-10 minutes reading and digesting Pamela’s article. You may not agree with everything she says, but she does highlight areas where communication can go terribly wrong.



4 responses

12 02 2007
Martha Darda


I was complaining about “world champions” last week during the U.S. football superbowl. How can the winner be the world champion when we are the only country to play this particular sport! My hubby told me to shut up and get out of the way of the TV.

I have been reading your blog for about six months now and really enjoy it. I even made your muffin recipe and it was delicious.


12 02 2007

Hi Martha

Sounds like your husband needs an education in world geography! And I’m glad you like the blog and the muffins.

13 02 2007

I commented to an American recently about the ‘World’ series, and actually got a decent response.
Apparently, and I’ve not researched the reply yet, the original sporting events were sponsored by a newspaper called ‘The World’ or ‘World News’ or similar, therefore The World Series etc.

I will have to check this out, but it was finally an understandable and acceptable explanation for the name of a sporting event that most definitely isn’t International.

Just one other example of how terminology that isn’t culturally global can confuse.

As per your post, I spend almost everyday speaking slower than I ever would have, or if I’m feeling particularly lazy (and it’s not often as I despise it) using a fake American accent to get my point across.
Initially my own use of colloquialisms surprised me, but you live and learn.
I’ve been in the U.S.A since August 2006 now and only on 4 occasions has anyone actually guessed immediately that I’m Australian, usually it’s English, South African or New Zealand, thus supporting your claim. šŸ™‚

9 03 2007

I must be hanging out with a lot of Brits and Aussies. I’ll admit to still having difficulty hearing the difference between Aussies and New Zealanders (I have not met enough of the latter to really have picked up on the characteristics of their accent). But Aussies and Brits sound too different from each other to be confused…and I definitely can’t fathom confusing South African for Australian!

And not all Americans have accents. There are geographic areas that broadcast journalists are actually sent to in order to LOSE their accents.

What a lot of us are guilty of is speaking quickly…perhaps too quickly according to some former ESL students of mine (again, there’s a couple of small regions where the natives are an exception, like the Dakotas, and Maine).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: