Lesson: Talking with native speakers

Lesson: Talking with native speakers

Lead-in: Who are the different people you speak English with? Native speakers / non-native speakers? People from different countries? Who are more difficult to communicate with? Who are easier?

  1. Look at the picture on the main article. Do you recognise it? What Bible story is it from? What are the quotes on the side? What is is different about them? Who do you think are saying these sentences? What do you think the picture is trying to represent?


Read the first part of the article:

Picture this: A group of nonnative English speakers is in a room. There are people from Germany, Singapore, South Korea, Nigeria and France. They’re having a great time speaking to each other in English, and communication is smooth. And then an American walks into the room. And the conversation trickles to a halt.

Why do you think this happened?

Read the first section to find out.

Picture this: A group of nonnative English speakers is in a room. There are people from Germany, Singapore, South Korea, Nigeria and France. They’re having a great time speaking to each other in English, and communication is smooth.

And then an American walks into the room. The American speaks quickly, using esoteric jargon («let’s take a holistic approach») and sports idioms («you hit it out of the park!»). And the conversation trickles to a halt. Decades of research show that when a native English speaker enters a conversation among nonnative speakers, understanding goes down.

Global communication specialist Heather Hansen tells us that’s because the native speaker doesn’t know how to do what nonnative speakers do naturally: speak in ways that are accessible to everyone, using simple words and phrases.

And yet, as Hansen points out, this more accessible way of speaking is often called «bad English.» There are whole industries devoted to «correcting» English that doesn’t sound like it came from a native British or American speaker. Try Googling «how to get rid of my accent,» and see how many ads pop up.

It turns out that these definitions of «good» and «bad» English may be counterproductive if our goal is to communicate as effectively as possible.

Are the following true or false

  • Native speakers help a conversation in English
  • Non-native speakers can do some things better than native speakers
  • A lot of people promise to reduce a student’s accent
  • Ideas of «good» and «bad» English might impede communication.


Find words from the text that fit into these sentences:

  • We need better ____________________ at this company – no one speaks to anyone else!
  • What is the latest _____________________ on language learning?
  • The building is very _________________ to people in wheelchairs.
  • She knows lots of _________________________ details about the ancient Egyptians.
  • I really think that putting up the building without plans would be ___________________________.

Discussion: Have you ever been in a situation like this? What could the implications be for companies or educational institutions?

How could this situation be avoided?


  1. What do consider to be good English? Good English teaching?
  • Listen to the podcast: 3.54- 8.19 What was Heather’s approach to teaching English like? What did the Singaporean government do?


Are the following true or false?

  • Heather studied German in Switzerland
  • The ideal English for Heather’s language school was British English.
  • The Singaporean government wants its citizens to have good English.
  • Heather thinks the slogan for the government campaign is funny.
  • Heather’s clients were having difficulties doing their job because of their English.


 For Heather Hansen, .she started her own company 
She moved to Singapore teaching English was a calling
She realized that it was not necessarily wasn’t matching what I was told to believe.
She loved it so much that to work with pilots at Singapore Airlines
What I was seeing with my clients the passengers of the plane that were asking for this.

Discussion: What do you think of Heather’s approach? The approach of the Singaporean government?

2. Who do you want to communicate to with your English? Does this affect your approach to learning the language?

Listen to the podcast: 8.19-11.14. What does Heather think is wrong with our approach to teaching/learning English?


  1. How did the programme find out about Heather?
  2. What happens to a conversation when a native speaker joins it?
  3. Who are generally understood as a «native speaker»?
  4. How many native speakers/ non-native speakers are there in the world?


Use these words to complete the sentences: showing, globally, outnumbered, seems, struck

  • But in it, you mention a body of research that completely _____________________me,
  • What the research is _____________________ is that when the non-native speakers are together alone, they’re actually doing just fine. 
  • But they are not ___________________recognized as native speakers.
  •  So we are hugely ________________, and something needs to change. 
  • It _________________ like we’re doing something backwards here.

Discussion: What could be some solutions to this situation?

Listen to the podcast: 11.14-14.27. What does Heather want to change about teaching English?


Which sentences belong to the native speaker which to the non-native speaker?

  • Use a lot of idioms
  • Use simple sentences
  • Finds it easier to adapt to someone’s language level
  • Seen as the «owner» of the language
  • Language mistakes can impact promotion


Put these sentences in order:

  • using / are not /idioms / They / a lot of / usually
  • would I rather than make quiet mistakes be
  • Suddenly, good my enough isn’t language
  • promotion It your impact could

Discussion: Do you agree with this description of language and language learning?


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