When a native speaker of a particular language is speaking to a person who has learnt that language as their second language, it is very common for the native speaker to try and adjust their manner of communication in order to accommodate the non-native speaker. The adjustments done could be in the areas on gestures used, the speech pattern as well as the vocal system during communication.
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There are various reasons why people adjust their manner of communication during a discourse between a native speaker and a non native speaker. Different scholars have developed theories to explain why people try to adjust in order to minimize or put more emphasis on their social differences when having a discourse.
One such person is Howard Giles, who has advanced the Communication Accommodation Theory. The theory explains various techniques that can be used by a person to enhance effectiveness in communication between them and another person, who may not be very proficient in the language (Miller 24).
In such a case, the convergence method is employed. On the other hand, some people may want to domineer and exercise power over the non native speakers during communication. In this case, the divergence technique may be employed. This paper shall delve deeper into the concept of language accommodation and look into issues such as how the language used changes depending with the position or status of a person.
Purpose of the research
The purpose of this research is to explore the how people speak differently depending with their position in order to accommodate their interlocutors. Moreover, how people adjust to accommodate other people during discourse, when one person is a native speaker and the other is a non-native speaker shall be addressed.
To achieve the stated purpose of this research, the question: how do people speak differently according to their position and the people they are speaking to in order to accommodate one another in the communication process, shall be used. To answer this question, this paper shall focus on finding out the different ways that people use in order to accommodate with one another in speech.
Particularly, communication between native speakers of a language and non native speakers of the same language, who have learnt it or are still learning it as a second language, shall be used to give more insights into the question.
The area of language accommodation has been of interest to many linguistics scholars. Therefore, there is a lot of literature available that tackles this area in details. To address this topic, the information used in this paper has been gathered from these secondary sources. Particularly, literature that has been written on this topic shall be used.
Language accommodation and how people speak differently according to the people position
In their study, Giles and Smith (90) record some of his findings concerning communication between the young people and the elderly in an environment where business is carried out. They did this using a theory they advance, known as the communication accommodation theory. The findings demonstrated the disparities that exist in terms of flexibility to accommodate one another when young people and the elderly people were dealing with one another.
The young people were noted to be more accommodating in their language when dealing with their elderly counterparts than when the elderly were dealing with the young people. The elderly people tend to be very rigid and therefore, end up being less accommodating. He attributed this behavior to both the convergence and divergence processes in language accommodation theory.
In the process of convergence, a person changes the way they are supposed to talk ordinarily when talking to a non native and tries to adopt their speech patterns in order to accommodate them. According to Giles and Smith (46), the different areas of language where convergence can be applied include pronunciation of words as well as their duration during utterance.
Where to pause in a sentence can also be used to accommodate the other person. Convergence is very important in a discourse between a native speaker and a non native speaker because it determines the level of attraction that the non native speaker will have towards the language.
Convergence tends to occur mostly between people who have a lot in common in terms of their personalities and other features such as beliefs and behavior. However, other factor such as power relations between the two people engaged in a discourse as well as social norms determine whether or not convergence occurs.
Since the general tendency is for people to converge with other people who are in higher status than them, a discourse among people of different status will tend to reflect the discourse of the person in the highest social class among them. Convergence is very vital in the communication process as it makes the communication process more effective and fosters understanding between the parties trying to communicate.
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However, convergence can also work against the intended goal of the people engaged in a discourse as it may hinder the communication process instead of fostering it. When using convergence to enhance communication, it is advisable that one should be careful that their actions do not result to over accommodation.
Again, Griffin (46) notes that divergence can be used during communication to widen the gap between the people involved in this process. This means that a person (especially the one who is proficient in a certain language) may choose to certain linguistic features of their language in order to show dominance over the rest who may not be very proficient in the same language. In so doing, the person widens the gap between them and the person they are communicating with, hence maintaining their cultural identity.
These two processes can be used to explain Giles’ findings on why the elderly people were found to be less accommodating in terms of their language to the young people. As opposed to the native speakers who use foreign talk to accommodate their counterparts in the communication process who may not be very conversant with the language, those who opt to use divergence may choose to do so whenever they feel threatened or may want to exercise superiority complex over the other group of people.
To show dominance over their subject in a working environment, bosses who speak a different native language from the employees, who may have learnt the language, may choose to use divergence when dealing with the employees. In so doing, the boss will try to widen the gap between them and their employees therefore failing to accommodate them linguistically.
On the other hand, the boss may decide to use convergence technique during communication in order to accommodate any non native speaker of their official language. This may help in fostering understanding among the employees as well as when communicating with the boss.
Immigrants into a certain country may also choose to use convergence and divergence in their speeches. Several factors may determine the point of their convergence in speech. One of them could be whatever they consider to be the governing norms within their new environment.
Again, before deciding on their point on convergence during communication, the norms of the new environment concerning the nature of language that foreigners should use plays a great role. Gallois and Callan (11) are of the opinion that immigrants should be very keen on the host country’s rules of convergence that apply to immigrants.
Foreign talk and how people speak while talking to someone who is non native
The process of communication between a native speaker of a language and a non native speaker learning the language as a foreign one is different from a discourse that involves two native speakers. According to the findings by Giles and Smith (50), native speakers of a language tend to slow down naturally when speaking to a non native speaker.
The use of shorter sentences as well as simpler words is very common. Moreover, native speakers tend to be more articulate in their pronunciation of words and their speech is characterized by the use of a lot of questions. This technique that the native speaker uses in order to enhance understanding between them and the non native speaker is what is commonly referred to as foreign talk.
The native speaker usually uses foreign talk whenever they realize that the non native speaker is not very proficient in the language they are trying to learn and therefore try to make their work easier and understanding of the language simpler. When the non native speaker is able to understand and respond accurately to the native speaker, their attraction towards the language is increased, hence making them desire to continue learning the language.
In some cases, native speakers may decide to use ungrammatical sentences in order to foster understanding of what they are saying by the non native speaker in order to able to communicate with them. In this kind of foreign talk, the native speaker may decide to use simple language, similar to that of the non native speaker which may include making grammatical or other mistakes that the non native speakers make during communication.
The language used in the process of communication differs depending with the people involved in the discourse. For example, a discourse between a boss and their maid who does house work is different from one between the boss and the relatives. If the maid is working for them as an au pair, who does not understand their language, the boss may bed forced to use foreign talk more often than when they are talking to their relatives who understand their native language.
This means that the boss may be forced to restructure their language whenever they are talking with the maid such that they speak in a slower manner and use more questions while pausing regularly, something which they do not have to do when talking to their relatives. On the other hand, the boss may want to show a clear distinction between their cultural orientation and their social class when dealing with the maid.
In this case, divergence may be used. For a non native speaker trying to communicate with a native speaker of that particular language, a lot of problems may be encountered especially if the native speaker is not sensitive to their language needs. However, if the native speaker chooses to speak in a manner that will show sensitivity to the communication needs of the non native speaker, their understanding of the new language will be easier and faster.
Communication, both verbal and non verbal, is a very important part of any human being. The use of language in communication has been employed since time immemorial. Since there are many different languages that are used by different people globally, it is important for one to look for ways to foster communication when they are dealing with a person who is not a native speaker of that language.
It is therefore important for people to know what to do whenever they are confronted with a situation whereby they are supposed to communicate with a non native speaker of their language. Such situations may include an office setting, whereby the boss has to deal with people who are not native speakers of their language or a house girl who has been employed as an au pair.
To demystify the concept of language accommodation, the language accommodation theory, as propagated by Giles has been used in this research paper to show how one can employ various techniques such as convergence, divergence as well as foreign talk to either accommodate or widen the gap between a native speaker of a certain language and a non native speaker of the same language.
Gallois, Cynthia, and Callan, Victor. Interethnic Accommodation: The Role of Norms. Contexts of Accommodation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Giles, Howard and Smith, Philip. Accommodation Theory: Optimal Levels of Convergence. Language and Social Psychology. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2007.
Griffin, Ern. A First Look at Communication Theory. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2008.
Miller, Katherine. Communication theories: Perspective, processes and contexts. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.