Negotiating Meaning.

A speaker’s meaning is not always perfectly clear, and there are cases the message might be deliberately ambiguous. When we are interacting, we will note that native speakers often negotiate meaning by asking if a particular story was meant to be a joke or if a statement was intended as a compliment or as an insult. They could also state that they did not understand a speaker’s intention and need clarification. Negotiation is an important part of any communicative exchange. When we speak in a foreign language, we need to discover when a statement s negotiable and how to indicate that a statement we have made is negotiable. Negotiation is possible and often expected in the cases of invitations and saying NO. Sometimes in American English an invitation is issued in such a way that it cannot be negotiated because the date and time are fixed. On the other hand, some non-invitations can be negotiated. A person says, “Let us get together soon,” he or she does not usually issue an invitation. The other person’s response may be something like this, “I’d love to. Would you like to set up a date and time now?” Then the interlocutor can negotiate the situation into an invitation. Negotiation can also take place to determine whether the response is a definite NO. To recognize when the word NO is actually meant takes a great deal of social knowledge and learning. Children as a rule very often have trouble with understanding this, what provokes their parents to express the non-negotiable intention by saying, “I said NO and that is final.” To express, to interpret, and to negotiate meaning are all part of a normal communication process. When we speak in a foreign language, we need to know that our message is interpreted appropriately. We can do this by watching our interlocutor facial expression and note whether the next comment is an appropriate reply to our intended message. Also, we can monitor ourselves for misunderstanding by checking our emotional responses. As to monitoring a written message is much more difficult, since we do not have the same sort of immediate feedback. We must be very careful responding to a written message that we express ourselves in an appropriate manner, and that we correctly interpreted the writer’s intentions.

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