“I have no idea why he reacted that way. He seemed really upset! ”
“I’m curious…what did you say to him?”
“Oh. I see.”
This is a quote from one of my recent coaching sessions. The person I was working with was a Dutch executive. Which means, at times, she translated from Dutch to English when she was speaking English. And sometimes, it didn’t work out in her favor. (This happened to be one of those times.)
In Dutch, it’s usually quite clear if the situation requires a formal or informal style of talking. The Dutch language (and the French, Spanish, and German, among others) has a formal and informal style actually built into their language. For example, there’s a formal way to say ‘you’ and an informal way to say ‘you’. And there’s an unwritten rule about when to use each one, and when to make the delicate transition from a formal to an informal communication style. I love that. We don’t have that shizzle in English. We. Only. Have. You. (And without you, sweetie, these newsletters would get so lonely!)
So…how do you express formality and informality in English? We use different words. And we change the word order, depending on who we are talking to and what we are talking about.
Dutch people have a culture where the facts pretty much speak for themselves. “Zeg het maar” and “Doe mij maar een….” is perfectly acceptable language to use in a cafe, for example. However, if you say “Tell me” or “Just give me…” in a cafe, you’re asking for trouble. Oh, and don’t say, “Just do me.” That means something completely different. (Mail me if you don’t know what that means.)
In English we also negotiate differently than in some other cultures. We try to separate the person from his or her ideas. We disagree with the idea, but not with the individual expressing it. If you say that someone is wrong, it comes across as being quite harsh. That’s what my client did, which explains why her English counterpart seemed a bit offended. We try to use ‘softening’ language to give bad news, or to express disagreement, and increase the formality when the situation gets more serious.
I CAN MAKE IT GO AWAY
Please don’t let this happen to you. Please let this be the last time someone comes across as too direct when it’s not appropriate. I can help you to never let this happen again! I’m offering a FREE WEBINAR on MARCH 3rd on Agreeing, Disagreeing, and Giving Opinions in English. It’s at 9 pm and you will get the recording afterwards. It’s completely free and I promise it will give you new insights, vocabulary, and grammatical structures to help you feel more confident in English. You can sign up HERE.
So, darling, now it’s time to get control of your English. For free! Come join me in my interactive Webinar. It would make my day, knowing the chances of this happening will decrease. It will make your day, knowing that you can be more confident, professional, and appropriate when communicating in English, and it will make your network’s day when they hear just how fabulous you are in English.
What are you waiting for? I’d love to work with you! Click here and sign up!
Hope to talk to you zoen!
Wit lof from your English coach,