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If Someone Keeps Asking “Do You Understand Me?” – You May Indeed Run Into Fluency Issues!

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In today’s video I’m discussing a particular experience I had with my plumber recently.

So, here’s the setup.

I’m a foreign English speaker having some issues with my heating system at home. I’m ringing the company who delivered my stove to come over and inspect the heating system.

A native English speaking plumber arrives the next day and we’re having a conversation about the issues I’m having.

As you know, I’m a fluent English speaker (no bragging – I’m merely stating a fact!), so you’d think there would be no problems with getting the message across and being understood by a native English speaker, right? Well, that’s right – everything I was saying, the plumber understood perfectly!

The main problem of the communication, however, was him saying at the end of each sentence:

DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME? 😡

In the beginning, I didn’t take much notice of it.

Then, as the conversation progressed, I responded to his DO YOU UNDERTAND ME? by saying things like:

  • Yes, I understand 100% of what you’re saying!
  • Yes, sure, I fully understand what you’re saying!
  • Don’t worry, I understand everything you’re saying!

Still, he kept repeating the same sentence as he kept reiterating the main points of the conversation, and needless to say, it started to irritate me big time.

Was I Being Judged?

There’s no real way of telling whether I was being judged as a foreign English speaker or not.

One thing’s for sure – it wasn’t real discrimination in any shape, way or form because we were having a perfectly sound, professional conversation.

I got everything he said, he got everything I said, and it could just be that he kept repeating the DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME? bit at the end of each sentence as a way of making sure all the technical details were made clear by him.

I would be all nice and well, if not for a simple fact:

I AM a Foreign English Speaker!

I know that all the following isn’t the plumber’s fault:

  • I’ve been having terrible fluency issues;
  • I’ve been judged by other people because of my poor spoken English;
  • I’m probably more sensitive when it comes to being potentially judged because of my English

Still, being aware of that didn’t help me while having the conversation – I simply got the impression that…

My Ability to Understand English Was Being Judged!

It’s a simple fact that foreign English speakers understand a whole lot more than they can say themselves.

The very same goes with my English – I understand 100% what people say to me, yet I can only replicate something like 60 – 70% of that speech.

Some people, however, (especially those folks who don’t speak any foreign languages) don’t really get this concept, so whenever they hear a person:

  • Speaking with a foreign accent;
  • Hesitating a bit when speaking;
  • Struggling to find the best fitting word from time to time

They immediately jump to a conclusion that the person they’re speaking with would have the SAME issues when understanding what native English speakers are saying!

Maybe It Wasn’t the Case in This Situation…

Maybe the plumber wasn’t making any assumptions.

Maybe it was ME who was imagining the whole thing – after all, there is this phenomenon of foreigners judging their own English much harder than people around them.

Also, I wasn’t making a lot of mistakes when speaking in which case it would be somewhat understandable that my conversation partner would judge my English by my mistakes (but it would make it right anyway!)

Still, the constant reiteration of the sentence DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME? was driving me nuts, and in the end I did start hesitating a bit while speaking because I started becoming too conscious of my own speech

I Allowed It Get Under My Skin…

Yes, just because I allowed myself become annoyed, it did actually affect my English fluency during the conversation.

Nothing crazy happened anyway – I simply resorted to my fluency management techniques and quickly got my speech back to normal.

It’s just that this incident clearly highlights the importance is keeping your cool when having situations like that, and even though it’s not possible in 100% of situations (we’re all human beings after all and we all possess EMOTIONS), we just have to try our best.

BOTTOM LINE:

The moment you spot your fluency being affected by people you communicate with, resort to fluency management techniques and remind yourself that it’s not really the other person – it’s all about how YOU perceive yourself as an English speaker!

Thanks for tuning in,

Robby

P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

 

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Fair enough, but they don’t ask the same question 100 times in a row! 😉

  • Q. Arman

    As other people here have said, it does not have anything to do with your fluency. If you go to a professional car repair shop, you can expect something similar. I remember reading one of the rules for mechanics making repairs – the customer is expected to know what repairs will be performed by the mechanics. They will go through a list of repairs that will be done on your car and you are expected to say that you have understood all the details. They do this to make sure there are no complaints when you get the bill.

  • Yeah, I was trying to convince myself that was his intention, however, I just couldn’t help but to start feeling that I was being judged on the basis on my foreign background because of the way he emphasized those words – Do you understand me?

  • Francisco Javier

    Well, something like that happened to me in my native language!

    I think he was just making sure I wasn’t going to do anything that would cause a problem which could be blamed on him.

  • Yes, it’s a totally valid guess, however, the intonation and the way he said it indicated that it wasn’t used as a mere filler phrase; by the sounds of it he actually meant it!

  • Sergio Rodrigues

    Wouldn`t the plumber simply using the so-called filler when he asked ~do you understand me, like you know, I see, etc?