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Four tricks to say a lot with a little

June 29, 2012

Dear Readers,

On CouchSurfing a woman from Japan made an interesting post about her plan to couchsurf in Finland. She didn’t speak much English, so she asked other CSers for advice on how to better reach mutual understanding with her Finnish hosts. We don’t always (if ever) have time to reach native fluency before we engage with native speakers, so how can we say a lot with a little language?

The four tips from surfers were as follows:


4 Use a dictionary

Keep a dictionary or phrasebook on hand. She later said her cell phone dictionary came in handy.

3 Use everything you know

No matter how limited your vocabulary, you will find you can bring it all to bear when face to face with someone you want to talk to. Your speaking partner will likely fill in gaps and correct you.

2 Talk face to face

It’s proven that understanding speech over the phone is harder than understanding speech face-to-face. This isn’t only because of gestures and facial expressions. The phone actually cuts off high frequency sound waves, making it hard to distinguish between words like “sip” and “ship.” (The distinction occurs in the high frequencies.) The poster said that a combination of exaggerated gestures and drawings helped things along.

1 Speak up

Whatever you do, don’t keep silent. The worst pronunciation is a mouth closed. The more you say, the more likely your speaking partner will be able to follow and infer what you mean, and the more friendly and open to conversation you will seem!


Keep speaking, my friends.









 Dさん: 黙ったら聞き手が手伝ってくれることができなくなります。逆に、単語や文法を失敗しても、最後まで言ったら相手が大ざっぱな意味をとらえて修正したり聞き返したりして意味を絞る事ができる可能性が増えます。



…電話で話すときよりも、直接会って話したときの方が確かにお互いの会話の理解がしやすかったです! 表情やジェスチャーを大げさにしたり、あと、イラストを描いて言いたいことを伝えたりもしてみました。


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