Language Usage - Video Transcript

Sometimes with communication skills with migrant students from other countries and international students, sometimes students say to me – I learned English, but this isn’t it. When I talk to them more about this they tell me they have quite an entertaining time about some of the Australian colloquialisms that we use and some of the sayings that we have, that the students really don’t understand. A student told me the other day that one of the colleagues that she was working with was a really dark horse and to look out for that one. She said to me, I don’t understand why is somebody talking about a horse in the hospital? So, you know things like that. The things like euphemisms for wanting to go to the toilet for example – I want to powder my nose, I want to send a penny, I want to go to the bathroom, I need to do a wee, I need to pee etc. All of these things can be poorly understood by a student. So, sometimes you need to clarify what a patient or a colleague has said. Sometimes if you are conscious of your own world view and the way your communicating with an international student it might raise your consciousness to the fact that you might need to speak a little more slowly and not use colloquialisms.

Another thing that we do quite often is we use a lot of words, and students become confused when we ask them questions. Such as, that has a double negative in it. So, for example you might say – you don’t mind if I sit here do you? So that’s – do you mind if I sit here? Or you do mind if I sit here?  What you’re actually saying is – can I please sit here? So, keeping sentences short and free of additional words and especially double negative connotations is a very useful tool when you’re communicating with people who have English as a second or third language. 

The other thing is, sometimes correcting communication behaviours with international students who don’t have some of our everyday words in their everyday mother tongue vocabulary. For example: If I asked you, I’d say to you – please would you pass the potatoes? Thank you. This phrase might become to a speaker of another language – pass me the potatoes.  We might find as westerners that sounds quite rude. Because there’s no please, there’s no thank you. That is because very often for an international student - please and thank you don’t occur in everyday language. This is when I get phone calls, and I get reports about students being rude or short, or abrupt in practise. What that means is that the poor student, if that student isn’t taught how people appreciate please and thank you and manners in certain situations – you’re going to set them up to fail, so you need to get them to add those words, and you need to get them to say in Australia – I mean we think we are very laid back, but actually we really like our manners. So when you tell a patient that he must sit down, or that you’re going to take his blood pressure, or that you need him to get out of bed to have his preoperative shower etc. That you need to actually put a please would you in front of it and a thank you after it.

Interestingly, I had a Chinese student some years ago that was so passionate about this after I had explained it to her that she made a video about this very thing. There’s a link to that on this website. I will put that link up for you. It’s basically her being rude to a patient because of her tone and not saying please or thank you. Then she goes back again and does it again and there’s a much better outcome. So I said to this student, she said to me – it’s very important that students from China know this because otherwise everyone will think they are rude. So I said, OK – we will make this video. So if you have a student or a colleague who people are saying to you – that person is very rude and abrupt, and you hear them and you think – I think that’s because they are not using those words please and thank you. Then it’s a very good idea to say, now in Australia when you ask somebody to do something you need to ask them in a polite way. In our culture that always involves a please could you, would you please, thank you very much – please could you, would you. And give them those sentences – please could you give me a hand.  That’s another one, I said that to a student – give me a hand. So you think about that for a minute. It’s a very common thing that we say. Can you give me a hand for a minute? Ok, so you need to think about that and explain what that means to an international student who has learned English, but they haven’t learned – can you give me a hand please? Then they learn that and they learn to say that, so they go when they go up to a colleague or their teacher then say – please could you give me a hand for a minute? They are actually modelling behaviour and teaching some sentences which actually help the student to progress.