Mutual understanding in love is attainable with non-native English

November 05, 2017

As the number of intercultural marriages rises, more and more couples use English as the relationship's lingua franca.

"It's often thought that when the partners learn to speak each other's native languages, they will pick either language as their shared language. But when one is used to speaking a certain language to one another, it becomes difficult to change," says researcher Kaisa Pietikainen from the University of Helsinki. She has studied the interactions of these so-called ELF couples in her doctoral dissertation.

Not only English

The language of ELF couples is, however, not English alone.

"These couples have an open attitude toward language-mixing. Features from other languages become such an integrated part of their 'couple tongue' that after a while, they may not even notice when they switch languages," Pietikainen says.

ELF couples identify mainly as English-speaking couples, but they are also aware of the presence of other languages in their interactions.

"The previously held idea that a lingua franca can't become a language of identification or that one can't use it to express feelings doesn't hold true when it comes to ELF couples."

Ensuring understanding with creative means Pietikaiinen says that misunderstandings are not very common in ELF couples' conversation. The couples invest in practices that support understanding, for example, they paraphrase difficult words and check whether the partner has understood them. ELF couples even utilise onomatopoetic expressions and drawing as an aid for achieving mutual understanding.

Silence matters in couples' conflicts

Silence in ELF couples' conflict interactions does not only mean that the partners disagree or that one is offended by what the other one has said or done. It can also be used to avoid giving self-incriminating answers, or in resisting the partner's attempt to defuse the conflict with the use of humour.

"These observations have, however, nothing to do with the fact that the partners use non-native English between them. I'm sure these kinds of silences are very familiar for every long-term relationship," Pietikaiinen adds.
MA Kaisa Pietikainen will defend her doctoral dissertation entitled 'English as a Lingua Franca in Intercultural Relationships - Interaction, Identity, and Multilingual Practices of ELF Couples' on 10 November 2017. Professor Johannes Wagner from Syddansk Universitet will serve as the opponent, and Professor Sanna-Kaisa Tanskanen from the University of Helsinki as the custos.

The dissertation is available as an E-Thesis.

University of Helsinki

Related Language Articles from Brightsurf:

Learning the language of sugars
We're told not to eat too much sugar, but in reality, all of our cells are covered in sugar molecules called glycans.

How effective are language learning apps?
Researchers from Michigan State University recently conducted a study focusing on Babbel, a popular subscription-based language learning app and e-learning platform, to see if it really worked at teaching a new language.

Chinese to rise as a global language
With the continuing rise of China as a global economic and trading power, there is no barrier to prevent Chinese from becoming a global language like English, according to Flinders University academic Dr Jeffrey Gil.

'She' goes missing from presidential language
MIT researchers have found that although a significant percentage of the American public believed the winner of the November 2016 presidential election would be a woman, people rarely used the pronoun 'she' when referring to the next president before the election.

How does language emerge?
How did the almost 6000 languages of the world come into being?

New research quantifies how much speakers' first language affects learning a new language
Linguistic research suggests that accents are strongly shaped by the speaker's first language they learned growing up.

Why the language-ready brain is so complex
In a review article published in Science, Peter Hagoort, professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Radboud University and director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, argues for a new model of language, involving the interaction of multiple brain networks.

Do as i say: Translating language into movement
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a computer model that can translate text describing physical movements directly into simple computer-generated animations, a first step toward someday generating movies directly from scripts.

Learning language
When it comes to learning a language, the left side of the brain has traditionally been considered the hub of language processing.

Learning a second alphabet for a first language
A part of the brain that maps letters to sounds can acquire a second, visually distinct alphabet for the same language, according to a study of English speakers published in eNeuro.

Read More: Language News and Language Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to