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Diego Marani (L'interprete)
"Le lingue sono come lo spazzolino da denti: ognuno dovrebbe mettersi in bocca soltanto il proprio. E' una questione di igiene, di buona educazione."

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asked 07 Nov '11, 13:43

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edited 24 Jan '12, 07:52

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I once read somewhere that in general, people appear 30% less intelligent when they speak a foreign language as compared to speaking their mother tongue. Can't remember the source but that that is a very convincing argument!

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answered 07 Nov '11, 16:40

Sirpa's gravatar image


Here is an excellent article about the comparative advantages of native English speakers:

Simon Kuper from the Financial Times has taken note of the changes in Brussels and elsewhere.

"In a Globish world, the native English-speaker triumphs," he notes in Why proper English rules OK.

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answered 08 Nov '11, 13:21

Angela's gravatar image


+1 for a very good link

(08 Nov '11, 13:38) Vincent Buck

I went to see the movie on Hannah Arendt, the German philosopher, yesterday. She was portrayed speaking English with a very heavy German accent. One of her friends comments on this in the movie and tells another listener "Hannah speaking English is like she is playing the fiddle - if you want to hear her play the Stradivarius, you should learn German" (or words to that effect). Maybe we can use this comparison trying to explain to conference organisers and speakers why it is much better for them to speak their mother tongue.

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answered 09 Feb '13, 04:04

AlmuteL's gravatar image


:-) a felicitous metaphor, Almute... I wonder however how many run-of-the-mill organisers would grasp the connotation of "fiddle" as opposed to "Strad." ;-), which underscores the real issue, ie other than speakers obviously misguided as to their command of EN, the REAL reasons why the others insist on using EN despite the availability of interpretation have little or nothing to do with the stated message (just like conferences these days are less and less about what happens on-stage) and as such they will not be swayed by whatever we may say on those grounds, more's the pity!

(09 Feb '13, 07:36) msr

We are discussing here whether a foreign speaker must use his native tongue or, supposing he knows the language of the audience, speak in that language.

To answer this question I need to refer to some theory concerning the notion of "Coordinate Bilinguals" and "Compound or Balanced Bilinguals". The latter are those who have age-appropriate competency in both languages, with the ensuing cognitive benefits: same level of oral and written creativity fluency and flexibility in both languages, heightened cultural knowledge, accurate delivery and pronunciation; and, above all, that can feel in both languages.

So, unless the speaker is a Balanced Bilingual his command of the second language will not be as good as that of his/her native tongue which will inevitable reduce his performance rate, making the message more difficult to convey to the audience in the case of interpreters, and more difficult to grasp, in the case of the audience.

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answered 13 Nov '11, 17:58

Vero's gravatar image


Here's another recent instructive article about this issue, don't miss the comments:

je parlais lenglish fluettement yes yes

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answered 31 May '13, 07:40

Marta%20Piera%20Marin's gravatar image

Marta Piera ...

edited 31 May '13, 07:41 a nutshell and as someone once said, in one's mother tongue one says what one wants, in other languages but what one can! ...You may be able to say a lot, but you'll always be limited by what you can say...and there's no way of knowing beforehand exactly what level of language will be required, once one engages in situational speech. Would anyone willingly put on leg irons before starting to run?

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answered 22 Jan '12, 07:43

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edited 09 Feb '13, 07:20

This article from The Wall Street Journal (kindly shared by Katty Kauffman) helps understand how Americans feel about non-native speakers of English:

Is proper English dying? And should us care?

And this interview from L'Express (kindly shared by Etienne van Dam) elaborates on the link between language and thought:

Imposer sa langue, c'est imposer sa pensée

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answered 13 Apr '12, 23:58

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edited 14 Apr '12, 01:56

Angela's gravatar image


"Dans sa langue maternelle on plie sa langue à sa pensée, dans une langue étrangère on plie la pensée à sa langue" (Danica Seleskovitch). Autrement dit : dans sa langue maternelle on dit ce qu'on veut, dans une langue étrangère, on dit ce qu'on peut. Cette règle est tout aussi vraie pour les interprètes (toujours privilégier l'interprétation vers la langue A) que pour les orateurs. A la différence près qu'un interprète qui travaille vers sa langue B connaît tous les écueils inhérents à cet exercice et saura s'exprimer avec clarté et simplicité. On ne peut pas en dire autant de l'immense majorité des orateurs anglophones non natifs.

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answered 11 Jun '13, 16:28

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edited 11 Jun '13, 17:00

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

This "tasteful" new AIIC video shows how good interpreters help speakers serve it up in style!

Let Them Hear You

"Your language is like a delicious meal... full of ingredients and tastes that make it memorable. [...]

Global English is not very strong on subtle seasoning, and the sort of flavours which make your own language special are lost. In some ways, it is the linguistic equivalent of fast food: filling but forgettable. [...]

Good professional interpreters [ensure that] your carefully crafted dish is being served just as carefully prepared in another language, not the fast food version, the authentic one."

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answered 04 Dec '13, 07:23

Angela's gravatar image


But if your mother tongue is hindi or arabic... what would happen? In South America we have no local interpreters for those languages (and Russian, Chinese and so on...) so foreign visitors must speak in an acquired language. This is where we can help our speakers because some are scared stiff of the experience, others do not want to stray away from the script that they have prepared with a coach or advisor... as long as we are provided with an opportunity to meet with the speaker before the meeting starts!!

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answered 22 Jan '12, 09:35

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Vicky Massa

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question asked: 07 Nov '11, 13:43

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