When I first arrived at university in the UK, I was excited. Having grown up in Malaysia and Italy, I wanted to mix with as many British students as I could. I didn’t want to restrict myself to the Malaysian students.
I threw myself into the social scene. But I soon found that I couldn’t follow the conversations. How was that possible? My first language is English. What was happening?
Problem was there were too many references to British colloquialisms and idioms. It was a different language. I felt excluded. It was my job to fix this language problem.
Hang on. Why should I be the only one to ‘fix’ this problem? Why should I be expected to speak British English when I didn’t expect them to speak Malaysian English? I wasn’t planning to live in the UK. I was only here for university, a hub of multi nationalities, for 4 short years.
No. What we needed was to meet halfway. To speak a 3rd language - International English stripped of all culture-specific references. I helped my British friends become aware of this 3rd language. To fix this problem TOGETHER.
Next time you’re with your monolingual- speaking colleague, tell them that there is a 3rd language. That you’ll teach them how to speak it.