A French client complains that Brits don’t say what they mean. And frequently say what they don’t mean.
At an international planning session, ‘Jean Paul’ notes how we use the word ‘maybe’ when we don’t mean maybe at all. (As when your boss says: ‘maybe you should get another job’.)
He asks if at our next European event I could get the Brits using words to avoid saying what they think. I’ll give it a go, Jean Paul! After all the word facilitate relates to the French ‘facile’: simple. Woe betide the next hapless Brit who obfuscates, or overplays his euphemisms and disphemisms!
Stephen Pinker in ‘The stuff of Thought’ describes language as a window on human nature. I particularly like the part on swearing – the five ways to cuss. S much of our challenge in collaboration is based on language and culture. De Gaulle noted the French have 250 kinds of cheese – yet the embattled Greeks make better yoghurt. Brits have 800 expressions for copulation – and are reputedly still not very good at it.
Yet communicating in different languages helps us to think differently, express ideas differently, and escape ingrained thought patterns. Guy Deutscher in ‘Through the Language Glass’ describes how the world looks different in other languages. I much prefer the challenge and opportunity of facilitating multilingual groups, to running a session in ‘Globish’. While we may not agree on a single currency, we should never give up the richness of our linguistic diversity.