February 14th, 2004


Language Competence -- Never a Dull Moment

Subject: Journal Question #2 from Session #3

Language competence, what the speaker can do under the best conditions, and one’s performance are worlds apart. Many factors affect performance: situation, nervousness, tiredness, being bored, being careless, or maybe just not understanding the social implications of what we say.

Since "we develop knowledge that allows us to use the language to communicate following the unwritten social rules of a particular group," (Freeman and Freeman, p. 55) it comes as no surprise that most of the ways we master those rules are painfully embarrassing.

Our church youth fellowship, on my advice, invited a young French girl to address our group. I’d heard her speak before, and she was vibrant, knowledgeable, amusing without being vulgar or insulting, -- a joy to listen to. Like most foreign speakers, she made her touching little gaffes. She had a sore throat that day, and began by searching for the proper words to describe it. "I have a toad in my throat," she finally announced, to guffaws.

"You’re a little hoarse," supplied the youth fellowship director.

Her face looked horror struck. "Oh, my, NO! A horse would never fit!"
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