Non-nativeness in communication

Centre for Language Studies | Faculty of Arts | Radboud University Nijmegen

Huib Kouwenhoven

PhD student

Communication in English between non-native speakers of English is ever more present in today’s globalized world. This non-native English communication occurs in formal settings, such as business meetings and university lectures, and in informal settings, for example when exchange students get together. In all these cases, the English produced by non-native speakers of English can be very deviant from native English norms. The quantitative and qualitative aspects of this deviance depend on native language. Therefore, communication between non-native speakers of English from different language backgrounds might lead to difficulties.

In order to shed light on communication between non-native speakers of English, I am working on a PhD-project that focuses on Spanish speakers of English in interaction with Dutch speakers. I will investigate several aspects of non-native English communication in both formal and informal language. First, I am interested in the ways in which native language influences non-native English when it comes to pronunciation patterns. Secondly, I will investigate the use of communication strategies. These can be used by speakers, for example, in order to avoid or explain unknown lexical items or to prevent or repair miscommunication. Lastly, I am interested in the effects of non-native English on attitudes towards speakers of this English.

Besides the work I do within my PhD-project, I am also interested in the effects of the use of an L2 on people’s self-image. In my master thesis I investigated whether it matters for our own perceived identity if we use our native language or another language. The results show that parts of our self-image are influenced by the use of a second language. The idea that the language we use could influence how we perceive the world around us is not new, but that language might also have an impact on how we perceive ourselves has been less researched. Therefore, I would like to investigate this intriguing idea in more detail.