Konversation auf Englisch - 10 Regeln dafür

....oder - Ah! Darum Spricht Alexandra so oft hier- oder davon!


Die Englisch-Grammatik sitzt perfekt, aber die Unterhaltung ist trotzdem eine Katastrophe.

Typisch Deutsch! Deutsche lernen Englisch sehr systematisch. Schritt für Schritt - das Alphabet, die Zeiten, die unregelmäßigen Verben. Wenn auch diese Zielstrebigkeit zur grammatischen Perfektion durchaus bewundernswert ist, sollte man sich doch fragen, ob nicht noch andere Fähigkeiten perfektioniert werden müssen, um im globalen Umfeld erfolgreich zu handeln.


Gäbe es eine "kulturelle Grammatik", würden die meisten Deutschen zeitlebens den Global Test nicht bestehen. Die richtige Zeit zu benutzen, mag morphologisch eine gewisse Genugtuung bereiten, wenn es allerdings um Zwischenmenschliches und spontanen, echten Gedankenaustausch geht, spielt es eine geringe Rolle.

Natürlich gibt es keine Zehn Gebote der zwischenmenschlichen Beziehungen. Ich will auch den Leser nicht verunsichern bezüglich seiner Konversationsfähigkeiten. Nachdem ich über zehn Jahre lang intensiv mit Deutschen aus allen Bevölkerungs- und Unternehmensschichten zu tun hatte, habe ich festgestellt, dass gegen mindestens zehn ungeschriebene Gesetze der Unterhaltung auf Englisch regelmäßig und nach allen Regeln der Kunst verstoßen wird. Zur besseren Erläuterung begeben wir uns nun ins Reich der englischen Sprache.


So here we are. Unwritten Rule Number One is the use of first names. Today this is standard practice everywhere in the English-speaking world. Read: first names are normal openers and do NOT signal privileged relationships. Using surnames or (far worse) no names at all only distances you needlessly from your counterpart.


    Number Two: engage in small talk. This means light social conversation and never involves money, health, family, physical appearance, politics or religion. It involves the weather, homeland, holidays, sports and recreational tips. Small talk is for everyone, in every social situation, and comes before - not after - business or shoptalk. Yes, some cultures talk family. Many do not. Moral: Do not introduce a topic you are unsure of. Germans love to talk about prices and physical conditions. This will come across as unduly serious and private in many international situations. Climate change may over time morph the weather from a light to a heavy topic, but for the moment it remains a neutral intercultural bond.


    Commandment Number Three - Never say never. 'No' means 'no' in German but remember that English avoids direct negativity by at least apologizing for it. The shortest way to say 'no', therefore, is probably "I'm afraid not".


    Tip Four - engage in back channeling. That means active listening with plenty of "aha's" and "right's" to help your partner along rather than blank silence which will only unsettle them.


    The Fifth Commandment is to yield your turn or allow yourself to be interrupted. There's a lot  

more interaction in English than interruption, so don't do the selfish thing and hold your turn by rabbiting on. Yield your turn by apologizing and giving way: "I'm sorry, go ahead."


    Six - use phrasal verbs instead of formal verbs for conversational freshness. That means cancel becomes 'call off' and repeat becomes 'run over'. This is not slang or dialect, but standard global English speech.


    Similarly, Commandment Seven tells us that question tags ("aren't you?", "won't we?") are not slang or dialect but standard spoken signals which engage and link up with our audience.


    Number Eight reminds us to remove false friends from international conversation. A 'Handy' is a mobile or cell phone. Workers are committed, not engaged'.


    The Ninth Commandment is to replace directives and monotone representatives with human expressives. Instead of "We need the document ASAP", try "We would be very grateful if you could send the document at your earliest convenience."


    And lastly, remember to shake the body in all the right ways. Too much direct eye contact can be frightening for many cultures. Shaking hands is for initial introductions. Repetitive Handshake Syndrome is a not an Anglo-Saxon disease.