教員ブログProfessor's blog

表現の幅を広げる「思いやり」

峰松 愛子

「言葉で表現するって、つまりは相手への思いやり」

先日91歳で亡くなられた作家、田辺聖子さんが生前インタビューでお話されていた言葉です。彼女いわく、「相手が気難しそうで分かってもらえなさそうな時ほど、どんな言葉を使って、どうしたら分かってもらえるか考えるとワクワクする」そうです。

さすが物書き、なんて真髄に迫る表現の仕方だろうと感心する一方で、彼女の言語表現への姿勢は日本語だけでなくどの言語にも共通して言えるのではないかと、偶然インタビューを見て以来、この言葉が心に引っかかっています。

ましてや、日々私が授業で扱っている英語という言語は、様々な状況で多様なバックグラウンドを持った人々によって使われています。相手への思いやりなくしては分かってもらえないことの方が多いかもしれません。

以前、クアラルンプールでタクシーに乗り込んだ時のことです。車内の冷房が強かったので、英語が何となく通じるタクシーの運転手さんに“Could you please turn down the air conditioning a little? We are a little cold in the back.” (「すみませんが、空調を少し弱めていただけますか?後席が少し寒いのですが。」)と可能な限り丁寧にお願いをしました。が、返ってきたのは人の良さそうな笑顔と “Ah?”「あ?」という反応です。そこで、こちらも切り替えて今度は“Air-con down, please! We are cold.”(「エアコン下げる、お願い!寒いです。」)と言ってみたところ、“Ahhhh, OK!”と満面の笑みで要望を聞いてもらえました。

このように相手に合わせて言葉遣いを切り替えなければならない体験をする度に、言葉の奥深さを感じます。そして、果たして自分の授業でこの面白さと奥深さはきちんと伝えられているのだろうかと考えさせられます。

というのも、よく授業で「どうしたら英語が流暢に話せるようになりますか?」「どうしたらネイティブみたいに話せるようになりますか?」という質問を受けるからです。言語学習の目標は人それぞれなので、最終目標のイメージを否定することはしません。しかしこのような質問を受ける度に、「流暢さ」や「ネイティブらしさ」というイメージを越えて、「相手への思いやりができる言語表現力」を目指して欲しいなと感じます。

相手のことを考えながら、言葉を選んだり、語彙表現の引き出しを増やしたり、発音を少し変えてみたり、文の構成を練ったりすると、伝え方への工夫の余地が際限なく生まれます。多様なバックグラウンドの人に伝えるために自分の表現の幅を広げ、言葉の先にいる「相手」のことに思いを巡らせると、単語を一つ覚えるのも、文を書くのもなんだかワクワク楽しくなってくるかもしれません。

Compassion: The Secret to Successful Communication?

Aiko Minematsu

“Expressing through words is, in a way, showing compassion.”

This is a quote from an interview I saw recently with the great Japanese writer, Seiko Tanabe, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 91. In the interview, she goes on to explain that whenever she has to deal with a difficult interlocutor, she finds herself getting excited with the challenge of choosing words and expressions effectively, and that you really need to think and care about your listener (or reader) in order to convey your message.

My first thought as I watched this interview was how eloquent she was, as she talked about the simple truths of language expression and meaningful communication. And at the same time, her words got me thinking about how this attitude can be applied to not only Japanese but to any languages.

Particularly, English is a language used in various situations by people with a plethora of different backgrounds. It isn’t too much to say that without caring for the other and thinking about where they’re coming from, you can’t get so far in communicating your thoughts.

For instance, I once visited Kuala Lumpur and got on a taxi. I wanted to ask the taxi driver (who could have a basic conversation with me in English) to turn down the air conditioning as it was freezing in the back seat, where I was sitting. So I asked, “Could you please turn down the air conditioning a little? We are a little cold in the back,” to which the driver responded with a questioning smile and a simple “Ah?” With a change of mind, I asked again and said, “Air-con down, please! We are cold.” To this, the driver responded with a thumbs-up and a big smile, saying “Ahhhh, OK!”

Whenever I come across such situations and find myself changing my use of language depending on who I am talking to, I can’t help feeling a deep awe for languages and communication. And usually, my next thought is asking myself whether my students ever experience this in the classroom, and whether I provide learning opportunities for them to really understand this depth of language use and communication.

And I question myself even more when students ask me questions such as “How can I speak English fluently?” or “How can I speak like a native speaker?” I don't mean to say their goals are frivolous or unrealistic and I believe that every student has the freedom to set their own goal, but whenever I get questions like this, I feel like I have not been doing enough to show them what they are really capable of. I want them to see themselves as a language user who can creatively make use of various linguistic tools (such as vocabulary, expressions, pronunciation, etc.) depending on who they interact with, whether it be a native speaker, non-native speaker, or those who just don't fit into any of these labels.

So, to students who are wondering if you can ever sound like a “native-speaker” or if you are worried you might lose your “American/ British (insert whatever variation here) accent” by talking to other speakers, why not think outside the box and focus more on the wide variety of people you can use the language with? Using languages may become a more creative and exciting process when you start thinking about how versatile you can be with it.

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