Meaningful face-to-face communication
Peter Grundy, University of Durham, United Kingdom
At the simplest level, a meaningful sentence is a sentence whose literal meaning we understand. This isn’t, however, the same thing as being communicatively meaningful. When the wife of the magician, Paul Daniels, was asked in an interview ‘What first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?’ the audience easily distinguished the literal meaning of the question on the one hand, and what was communicated, i.e. that the interviewee married Paul Daniels for his money, on the other.
The contemporary view of English as a de-territorialized lingua franca which belongs to all its users is good news for learners to the extent that those aspects of their English which, although intelligible, were formerly considered incorrect because different from native speaker usage are no longer discriminated against. But it’s bad news to the extent that they are now expected to use English, not as a foreign language in which being literally meaningful is sufficient, but as a language of their own in which they need to be as communicatively effective as in their first language. Now that learners no longer need to use English like native speakers, learning and teaching English has suddenly got a whole lot harder!
It’s been suggested that we need twice as long to recover the communicative meaning of an utterance as to recover its literal meaning. I’ll try to entertain you with several examples of real talk which suggest that this is true, and argue that this poses a very considerable challenge for language learners as well as a real pedagogic problem for teachers.
Dr. Sufian Abu-Rmaileh is an English Lecturer at UAE University. He was the External Projects Coordinator for four years. He was also the Professional Development Coordinator for The University General Requirements Unit. For the past thirty years, he has been teaching English at various levels, skills and institutions in the United States, the Middle East in general, and the UAE in particular. He has been an administrator and a team leader for over ten years in the United States, and the UAE. He has an MA in Linguistics, and received both his TESL Certificate and his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Brigham Young University, USA. Dr. Abu-Rmaileh has also won many awards for his work as a leader, researcher and classroom teacher, including Toastmasters International Advanced Competent Communicator and Advanced Competent Leader. He is a certified critical thinking coach from the Centre for Critical Thinking in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He is a frequent presenter and invited speaker at local, national and international conferences. He has written on culture, classroom technology, motivation, burnout, communication, business writing, critical and creative thinking, emotional and social intelligence, team building, problem solving and leadership.