By Adriana Adarve – Owner of Adarve Translations & Donnamarie Leemann – Head of Marketing at Adarve Translations
I give English Conversation lessons. Most of my students wish to learn English for travel, social and/or professional reasons.
English has become the international language of travel. On international airline flights the pilots and air traffic controllers speak English, the English language being the most commonly spoken language worldwide.
Travel English is perhaps the easiest of the three categories of my students’ needs, since the vocabulary is limited and specific, some social phrases being simple enough to allow them to make friends with fellow travelers.
Purely social English is more difficult because one never knows what the topic of a casual social conversation might be or where that conversation might lead. Also, one doesn’t necessarily know the background of one’s interlocutors, who come, in fact, from all walks of life and from all levels of intellectual acuity.
Because there is a lot of leeway in social situations—people are neither spending nor making money, nor are they trying to score professional kudos—any mistakes made in English in a social context are more likely to be amusing than they are to cause consternation.
Professional English is far more difficult, because each profession has its own vocabulary, jargon, and codified rules, particularly rules regarding the written word. Many companies conduct business in English, a practice that, since the advent of the Internet, has become increasingly common.
Little by little, the vocabulary and phraseology of International Business English is becoming standardized: “The following is…,” “Attached please find…,” “Looking forward to your early response,” etc. You can’t go wrong if you open a letter with “Dear Mr. So-and-So,” but recently, after only a few contacts, openings such as “Hello, John,” or “Hello [Company Name] Team,” are used. Similarly, letters signed “Sincerely,” “Sincerely yours,” and “Cordially” retain traditional formality in closings, but less formal endings such as “All the best” and “Hope to hear from you soon” are increasingly common.
Technical English poses the greatest challenge. While there are technical translating dictionaries, both printed and on the Internet, they are for the most part out of date shortly after they are published because the technology changes and advances so rapidly nowadays.
Also, many words, expressions and phrases do not translate directly and cannot be found in any dictionary, however comprehensive or recently published that dictionary might be. I have one student who is an inventor. He licenses some of his creations to a firm in Taiwan. The Taiwanese manufacturers do not speak French. They do speak English—after a fashion. This student translates his technical documents into English, which documents I proof-read and help my student to present in correct technical English.
Today the word “deep” came up in two different contexts. One concerned the physical depth of a parameter that needed to be changed. My student correctly translated the French word into English as “to deepen,” to expand the measurement to a greater vertical depth. The other context concerned a surprising and significant change in the level of understanding of the results and analysis of a given experiment. Following dictionary definitions, he again used “to deepen,” when a more accurate rendering would have been that the analysis of the experiment led to a profound change in the level of understanding of the materials and processes involved.
In trying to explain the difference, the best I could come up with (which, however inadequate, was better than any of our dictionaries could provide) was that, in general, in a technical context, “deep” was a physical measure, while “profound” was an intellectual understanding.
I am a teacher of English to non-Anglophones and am therefore concerned with words and translations of words. My primary interest is, however, in communication itself.
Vicariously, via my students, I travel to different parts of the world, I learn about the conception and design of the most expensive jewelry and fashion accessories in Paris and New York, though their methods of production are planned right here in my town. I offer suggestions and make corrections to the by-laws and newsletters of the local Right-To-Die-With-Dignity organization. A new student came to me for English lessons after he joined the International Criminal Court in The Hague. I can’t wait to learn what linguistic problems he’ll confront me with.
But I not only travel and learn wonderful things from my students; I also become excellent friends with a lot of them and enrich my knowledge of human nature and all it has to offer us.
Secondary school students who are desperate to improve on their weak points in English and, occasionally, quite young children whose are families will be moving to English-speaking lands are also part of this fountain of language and communication that is my life.
Pre-literate children have little or no interest in language learning, even if they are already bilingual through their parents.
While I use my knowledge in Travel English, Social English and Professional English to help and teach my adult students, as well as technical dictionaries and the help of professionals in technical fields to unravel some of the more complex meanings of certain words, I prefer to use art and crafts when I teach young children. I ask the parents to tell their kids that I am eccentric, in that I speak French quite well but can only teach them how to color and paint and do crafts in English.
Language—grammar, vocabulary, syntax, et al—provides the structure for all of my lessons, be those lessons given to a couple who have a holiday home in Thailand, a jewelry production designer, a widow determined to overcome her grief, an inventor, a panicked secondary student or a small child hoodwinked into learning English. The tie that binds us all is communication.
My students have very different areas of focus. The common thread is their desire to better their ability to communicate. The lessons I give to them help me to better my own ability to communicate at least as much as I am able to aid them in their communication skills. I am privileged to be a teacher, to be their teacher.
All the best,
Donnamarie Leemann, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, & Adriana Adarve, Asheville, NC
About the Authors: Adriana Adarve is the owner of Adarve Translations and is fluent in three languages (English, Spanish & French), as well as pluri-cultural, multi-cultural, plurilingual and multilingual. Adriana has been the editor as well as a contributor to this article. Donnamarie Leemann is an artist and writer who has for many years contributed to the BBC and to many other public forums, and who collaborates at present with Adarve Translations as Head of Marketing. Donnamarie has been the main author of this article; she’s an excellent English teacher as well.