Tuesday, 27 September 2016

many thanks

Extremely happy to see viewership crossing 10,000 yesterday in almost three years of the blog's existence.

Thank you all. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Silent Letters

1. Introduction
There are a lot of silent letters in English. This is because although the pronunciation of
some words has changed over the last two or three hundred years the spelling has
stayed the same.

There aren't many hard and fast rules, it's more a matter of learning which letters are
silent in certain combinations of letters.

2. History
Sadly we are trapped in an archaic system which causes great confusion to all learners, both native and non-native.

Here’s a glance into the history, thanks to Rod Mitchell’s contributions to the discussion:  Hi everyone. Could anybody help with why some English language letters are silent? For example: walk by Bb Spoghmay:

There are two main reasons (among others).
1. spurious letters put into words due to either mistaken association, or a mistaken desire to show etymological origin.

"Island" is an example of the first. In older English it was "iland", "i" meaning "island" (it is the same as the -ey in place names like Orkney, Sheppey, Jersey, Guernsey), and "land" being the word "land".  For "island", earlier "iland", the "s" was put in because someone thought that the origin was actually the Old French word "isle" (now "île" in Modern French).

"Doubt" and "debt" are examples of the second. In older English these were written "doute" and "dette", and were from Old French (in Modern French they are still written "doute" and "dette"). The word "doute" is from Latin "dubita". During the Renaissance, when the realisation that Latin was the ancestor of French, Italian and so on, someone decided it would make English either more elegant - and perhaps easier to read - if the "b" was restored (this happened for a little time in older French as well, "doubte" did appear now and then). "Dette", likewise, was from Latin "debita" (things that are owed).

2. The main reason is language change, and the spelling system not keeping up with that.

English was first written down using the Latin alphabet around 1400 years ago. The alphabet then was "phonetic". Literacy was wide spread, except among the peasantry. In 1066, the Norman Conquest brought Norman French in as the upper class language, and while Old English stayed on a legal par with Norman French until William the Conqueror's death, in reality it lost its place as all the English "public servants", bishops and so on were replaced by Normans.

For a couple of centuries few people read or wrote English, though literacy in English was much more widespread than we assume. When people started to read and write in English, in general it was done using Norman French phonics, with some carry-over from Old English phonics.

The result was a reasonably phonetic spelling system, all be it with lots of variation according to local accent, dialect and a host of other things. We can assume that in 1300-1400, when writing in English spread like wildfire, that words were written as they were pronounced, including the bulk of the silent letters of modern English.

What then happened was that the writing of English became more and more "fixed", in particular between 1500-1600, though with nothing like the rigidity we have nowadays.

In the meantime, English, like all languages, evolved. Most of the changes that happened after the "fixing" of English spelling were not reflected in the spelling. That is to say, the words we write on the whole represent the pronunciation of English of around 700 years ago.

So, final -e in words like "ride" used to be pronounced - as a schwa. "gh" used to be pronounced (and sometimes written) as the "ch" in German "auch". The K- in "kn" (know, knee, etc.) also used to be pronounced, which is why we still pronounce it in "acknowledge". The "e" in words like "liked" also used to be pronounced (as schwa), as it still is in words like "crooked" and "wicked".

In the case of words such as "talk", "walk", "baulk" and "would", a change that has been happening in English (and happened in French, Dutch, Portuguese and many other languages) is the change of syllable final "l" to dark "l" then to a "w" like sound in some dialects of English. For example, "well" is pronounced "weww" in Cockney English. "Brasil" in Portuguese is pronounced "Braziww", and in French the change is so old that even the "w" sound has disappeared (e.g. Old French "batel" "boat" has become modern French "bateau").

In Dutch, English words like "gold" have a "u" instead of the "l" ("gold" in Dutch is "goud").

The one word in English that comes to mind immediately where the "l" has disappeared is "won't" (= "will not"). In the vast majority of cases, even though the "l" has disappeared in pronunciation (as in "walk", "talk", "baulk", "would" and "should"), we keep the "l" in writing. This retention in "should" and "would" has led to the putting of "l" in "could", where it does not belong. In older English this was spelt "coude" (and the "e" was pronounced).

The "w" in "write", "wrong", "wrench" and so on used to be pronounced, like the "k" in "knee" and the rest; however, one class of word initial "silent" letters are to be found in foreign words (from Greek, etc.) which have combinations that are impossible in English phonology. These include "psychology" and "pterodactyl". We don't pronounce the first letter of such Greek words, even though in Greek they are pronounced as written.
3. Silent letters from A to Z (The list is not exhaustive, please)

A - artistically, logically, musically, romantically, stoically
B - comb, climb, debt, plumber, tomb, subtle, dumb, bomb, doubt, , numb, subpoena, thumb,   
C - acquire, acquit, blackguard, connecticut, czar, muscle, scissors, victual
CH - yacht
D - handkerchief, Wednesday (commonly said Wens-day)
E - plaque. vegetable (veg'tab'I), bridge, clothes, Wednesday (commonly said Wens-
      day). When on the end of a word, it changes the pronunciation of the word, but the -e is
F - halfpenny
G - align, alight, champagne, diaphragm, foreign, gnash, gnat, gnaw, high, light, reign,
GH - right, drought, eight, weigh, etc.
H - choir, exhaust, hour, honour, honest, herb, rhyme, rhythm, thyme, Thailand 
I - business, parliament
K - blackguard.
KN -words, the k is silent: know, knot, knee, knife, knight, knock.
L - calm, folk, salmon, talk, walk, could, should, would, folk, half, calf.
M - mnemonic.
N - autumn, chimney, column, damn, damn, government, solemn.
O- colonel, sophomore, opossum
P - corps, coup, cupboard, pneumonia, psalm, raspberry, receipt, coup
Q - (NONE)
R - butter, finger, surprise 
S - aisle, island, debris, isle, patios, viscount.
T - beret, Chevrolet, depot, listen, whistle, wrestle, trestle, mortgage, apostle
      (When talking fast, the ‘t’ is very lightly pronounced in words like Christmas, mountain
        and little)
TH - asthma, isthmus, north, Easter
W - who, whole, write, wrong,  two, sword, wrist, answer
X - faux
Y - (NONE)
Z - rendezvous

Silent letters can be heard depending on a person’s accent.

In the thread referred to in the ‘History’, Katerina Xafis makes this observation:
Apparently, L-vocalisation (ie the replacement of 'l' sound with a vowel sound or semi-vowel sound) in words such as 'walk' has occurred in all Englishes except in Irish English. But strictly speaking, the sound 'l' has been replaced with a semi-vowel or vowel sound (as Rod so well explained), so it is not really 'silent', which is what I think James is referring to. 

Another example is 'calm' with various ways of pronouncing it --- I have heard some Am speakers pronounce the 'l'.

Rod Mitchell recommends reading ‘Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling’ by David Crystal.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Worst Practices

A few months ago, David Deubelbeiss raised a pertinent question in ELT Professionals around the world about worst practices: What do teachers do that can harm student learning then and now and also for future months/years? I'm sure there are even many common practices that some of us might consider as harmful.

1. focussing on the most able learners to the exclusion of the more shy but able learners
2. focussing on the wealthy in class to the exclusion of the poor
3. considering themselves superior and mocking / belittling / humiliating weak learners in
    front of their peers by word and deed
4. having fun at the ignorance of learners
5. reading learners’ gestures wrongly and (without seeking explanation) hurting them
6. calling students names
7. accepting another teacher’s image of certain students and looking at them with prejudiced

    perception and developing a negative attitude

These are some of the things that struck me as worst practices. I’ve seen some of these happen and do irreparable damage. The can wound the students in question, destroy their confidence, initiate a dislike for the subject; they may even pave way for bad blood between such teachers and students, and in all probability, it’s the students who get punished for no fault of theirs.

Know these words

Verbs to do with food preparation

Peel the potato
Mash the potato
Beat the eggs
Knead the dough
Slice the onion
Chop the onion
Shell the peas
Shred the lettuce
Dice the carrot
Grate the cheese
Toss the salad
Sift the icing sugar
Drain the pasta
Grease the tin

Some action verbs 

Hit/press PageDown key
Hold down the shift key and press Q.
Press/Push the rewind button
Turn a knob /handle/dial
Turn (the fire) up/down
Turn on/ off—lights, television, radio, machines (with motors), cars, gas, tap, water
Switch on/off—lights, television, radio, matchines (with motors)

Words to do with shopping 

‘wear’ is commonly used with dresses that we use for several purposes like children’s wear, sportswear, school wear.

Beachwear/swimwear: swimming costumes, trunks, bikinis, swimsuits
Maternity wear           : for women who are going to have a baby
Leisurewear                : for relaxing in- sweatshirts, tracksuits
Casuals                       : informal clothes not suitable for work: jeans, slacks, pullovers
Knitwear                     : knitted woollen clothes—jumpers, sweaters, jerseys
Underwear                  : to wear under other clothes—underpants, bras
Lingerie                      : woment’s clothes for sleeping in and underclothes-bra, nightdress
Hosiery                       : thin clothes worn on the legs by women –stockings, tights
Coordinates                : women’s clothese in matching colours
Accessories                 : handbags, shoes, gloves, umbrellas
Fabrics                        : cloth used to make clothes
Haberdashery              : cloth, wool, and tools for making clothes and for sewing

Goods for the house and garden
You’ll find these under ‘domestic’, ‘home’ and ‘household’ titles:
Furnishings                  : furniture, curtains, carpets
(Br) soft furnishings /
(Am) soft goods           : curtains, furniture coverings
(Br) drapery /
(Am) dry goods            : cloth and cloth goods esp. for making curtains
Appliances                   : devices or machines for cleaning, cooking etc.
Kitchenware                 : plates, bowls, knives, forks
Ovenware                     : dishes and other containers in which food can be cooked
Cutlery                         : knives, forks, spoons
Silverware, glassware  : articles made of silver or glass
China or chinaware      : plates, cups and ornaments made of china
Lines                            : cotton items like bed sheets and table cloths
Homecare                    : substances and tools for cleaning the house
(do it yourself)             : materials and tools for decorating and improving your house or
(Br also) ironmongery  : tools or equipment used in house or garden

Other types of items
Greeting cards               : printed cards for birthdays, weddings etc.
Stationery                      : pens, paper, envelops etc.
Handicrafts                    : materials and tools for sewing, weaving
Needlework                   : materials and tools for sewing
Luggage/travel goods    : bags and articles used while travelling: suitcases, holdalls
Cosmetics                      : items used to improve your appearance: lipstick, eye liner
Confectionary                : sweet foods, cakes, chocolate, (Br) sweets .(Am) candy
Toiletries                        : used to clean and tidy yourself: soap, toothpaste, hair brushes

pliers, screwdriver, spanner (Br)/wrench (Am), hammer, mallet,  chisel, saw, bolt and nut, file, nail, drill, hacksaw, plane

Kitchen items 
Saucepan, frying pa(Br)/skillet (Am), teapot, toaster, kettle, chopping board (Br)/ cutting board (Am), tea strainer, oven glove (Br) / oven mitten (Am), rolling pin, ladle, whisk,
can (Br)/tin (Am) opener, grater, blender/liquidiser, fridge/freezer (Br)/ refrigerator/freezer (Am), colander, sieve, grill (Br)/broiler (Am), sink, tap (Br)/ faucet (Am), scouring pad, worktop(Br)/counter (Am), bin (Br)/wastebasket(Am), cutlery(Br)/silverware(Am), fish slice(Br)/spatula(Am), funnel, washing-up liquid(Br)/dishwashing liquid(Am),
cooker (Br)/stove (Am)

Slipper (see dictionary), flip-flop (Br)/thong (Am), sandal, plimsoll (Br)/sneaker(Am), clog, slingback, rubber boot/wellington, shoehorn (used to slip your foot in), cowboy boot, ankle boot, football boot(Br)/cleats(Am)

gloves*, handcuffs—cuffs(informal), forceps, pliers, scissors, shears, tweezers

briefs, jeans, knickers, pants, shorts, stockings*, tights, trousers, trunks

boots*, sandals*, shoes*, slippers*, socks*, trainers*

binoculars, glasses—shades(informal) (=sunglasses), spectacles—specs(informal)

earrings, headphones

*these words can be used in the singular to refer to a single item.


Friday, 11 March 2016

How can you make students pay attention in the class?

Give them the confidence that you are there FOR them. Let them feel you are there to support their justifiable causes. Let them understand you are there to make their lives smooth for them.

How do you do all these?
By being much more than a subject teacher.

See them as human beings, understand and deal with their shortcomings with empathy (mind you, don’t condescend, they’ll know), applaud their strengths, help them in whatever way you can with the administration and other staff. 

1. Ground Rules
In my first class with students, I'd emphasise this: Remember this every moment you're in class. Two palms are required to clap, two feet are needed to move, mind and heart are necessary to make a human whole, if I'm the one palm you are the other, if I'm one foot  you're the other. If I'm the heart you're the mind. I'll do my best and so should you. 

All the others are secondary. The ground rules come first. Always.

2. Greet them first
Don’t wait for your students, greet them as soon as you see them, wherever you see them. A greeting and a cheerful face go a long way in initiating the rapport.

3. Make enquiries
Enquire after their health, get to know details about any visible health issue. Such a gesture indicates your concern for them.

4. Encourage them
Involve yourself in extracurricular activities; this will lead to their participation. Praise their little or big successes. Admire their talents. Be proud of their achievements.

5. Support their just causes
Let them see you championing their wishes, needs and comforts.

6. Meet parents
Be in frequent touch with parents or relatives. Especially of those ‘difficult’ children. Discuss their physical and mental well-being. Suggest that neatness and discipline at home, respect for time, good habits go a long way in shaping their children’s future.

7. Outdoors
Arrange for picnics, trips to places closeby, meaningful occupation of time—games, singing, dancing, painting, cooking.
Arrange for meaningful social activities—keeping surroundings clean, literacy to elders, getting things done for illiterates.

And so on.     

Be much more than a subject teacher. 

Friday, 4 March 2016

Misused words

Here are some highlights:
1.      Adverse means "detrimental." It does not mean "averse" or "disinclined." Correct: "There were adverse effects." / "I'm not averse to doing that."
2.    Appraise means to "ascertain the value of." It does not mean to "apprise" or to "inform." Correct: "I appraised the jewels." / "I apprised him of the situation."
3.    Beg the question means that a statement assumes the truth of what it should be proving; it does not mean to "raise the question." Correct: "When I asked the dealer why I should pay more for the German car, he said I would be getting 'German quality,' but that just begs the question."
4.    Bemused means "bewildered." It does not mean "amused." Correct: "The unnecessarily complex plot left me bemused." / "The silly comedy amused me."
5.     Cliché is a noun, not an adjective. The adjective is clichéd. Correct: "Shakespeare used a lot of clichés." / "The plot was so clichéd."
6.    Data is a plural count noun not, standardly speaking, a mass noun. [Note: "Data is rarely used as a plural today, just as candelabra and agenda long ago ceased to be plurals," Pinker writes. "But I still like it."] Correct: "This datum supports the theory, but many of the other data refute it."
7.     Depreciate means to "decrease in value." It does not mean to "deprecate" or to "disparage." Correct: "My car has depreciated a lot over the years." / "She deprecated his efforts."
8.    Disinterested means "unbiased." It does not mean "uninterested." Correct: "The dispute should be resolved by a disinterested judge." / "Why are you so uninterested in my story?"
9.    Enormity refers to extreme evil. It does not mean "enormousness." [Note: It is acceptable to use it to mean a deplorable enormousness.] Correct: "The enormity of the terrorist bombing brought bystanders to tears." / "The enormousness of the homework assignment required several hours of work."
10.           Hone means to "sharpen." It does not mean to "home in on" or "to converge upon." Correct: "She honed her writing skills." / "We're homing in on a solution."
11.  Hung means "suspended." It does not mean "suspended from the neck until dead." Correct: "I hung the picture on my wall." / "The prisoner was hanged."
12.Ironic means "uncannily incongruent." It does not mean "inconvenient" or "unfortunate." Correct: "It was ironic that I forgot my textbook on human memory." / "It was unfortunate that I forgot my textbook the night before the quiz."
13.Nonplussed means "stunned" or "bewildered." It does not mean "bored" or "unimpressed." Correct: "The market crash left the experts nonplussed." / "His market pitch left the investors unimpressed."
14.Parameter refers to a variable. It not mean "boundary condition" or "limit." Correct: "The forecast is based on parameters like inflation and interest rates." / "We need to work within budgetary limits."
15. Phenomena is a plural count noun — not a mass noun. Correct: "The phenomenon was intriguing, but it was only one of many phenomena gathered by the telescope."
16.Shrunk, sprung, stunk, and sunk are past participles--not words in the past tense. Correct: "I've shrunk my shirt." / "I shrank my shirt."
17. Simplistic means "naively or overly simple." It does not mean "simple" or "pleasingly simple." Correct: "His simplistic answer suggested he wasn't familiar with the material." / "She liked the chair's simple look."
18.Verbal means "in linguistic form." It does not mean "oral" or "spoken." Correct: "Visual memories last longer than verbal ones."
19.Effect means "influence"; to effect means "to put into effect"; to affect means either "to influence" or "to fake." Correct: "They had a big effect on my style." / "The law effected changes at the school." / "They affected my style." / "He affected an air of sophistication to impress her parents."
20.          Lie (intransitive: lies, lay, has lain) means to "recline"; lay (transitive: lays, laid, has laid) means to "set down"; lie (intransitive: lies, lied, has lied) means to "fib." Correct: "He lies on the couch all day." / "He lays a book upon the table." / "He lies about what he does."
It should be noted that while it's always good to polish up your writing, one of the joys of language is that it isn't fixed in time. It evolves. Nor is there a single "correct" style (in English, at least).
You'd neither connect nor impress if you chose your words like an Oxford don at a rap battle (though, actually, someone please make that YouTube video), and you'd be unlikely to get a job at an investment bank today speaking like Shakespeare.
Why is this important? It's easy to get too caught up in being perfectly "correct" and become a tedious language snob. Remember you probably want to come across as intelligent and thoughtful, not uptight and pedantic. So don't get so worked up over the little things that you miss the larger point of good writing — to communicate clearly and engagingly with your chosen audience.
 In a Linked in discussion, I found these:

Sharon Rossignuolo
Very interesting! A common mistake I notice among native speakers in Ireland is the use of the word "specific". Instead of specific, people say "Pacific" (like the ocean)! Not sure if this is prevalent in other countries? 

Katerina Xafis How interesting Sharon. Have not heard it myself. You've reminded of another mistake --- 'specially' to mean 'especially'. (They are toys specially made for young children, especially boys.)

Homonyms, homographs, homophones

(i)   share the same spelling and
(ii)  the same pronunciation but
(iii) have different meanings. For example, bear.

bear (the animal) can bear (tolerate) very cold temperatures.
The driver turned left (opposite of right) and left (departed from) the main road.
Yes, I can (am able to) carry the can (container).
You’ll look better in this suit (dress); if you don’t like it, well, suit yourself (wear whatever you want).
You’ll get a fair (reasonable) price at the fair (exhibition).

Homophones are also known as sound-alike words; they are words that
(i)   are pronounced identically but
(ii)  have different meanings and often
(iii) have different spellings.

These words are a very common source of confusion when writing.
Here are a few examples:
to, too, and two
they're and their
bee and be
sun and son
which and witch
plain and plane.
addition and edition
ascent and assent
desert and dessert

Homographs are words that
(i)   are spelled the same, but
(ii)  have different meanings and
(iii) are often pronounced differently.

Some examples of homographs are:
bass as in fish vs bass as in music
bow as in arrow vs bow as in bending or taking a bow at the end of a performance
close as in next to vs close as in shut the door
desert as in dry climate vs desert as in leaving alone.

Heteronyms or Heterophones have
(i)   same spelling,
(ii)  different pronunciations,
(iii) different meanings.

All heteronyms are homographs, but not all homographs are heteronyms. See why this concept can be so confusing to learn?
I need to wind the alarm clock so I can fly my kite in the early morning gusty wind.
Please record the program when they try to beat the world record for word nerdiness.
Please excuse this poor excuse for art.

Capitonyms are different words spelled the same except for the capitalization. Sometimes they are pronounced the same, sometimes they are not.

I like to visit the country of Turkey and eat that American bird, turkey.
My mobile phone ironically did not work in Mobile, Alabama.
In May, when spring is almost over, I may pack away my winter clothes.
The Polish refugee said nothing but went straight to work putting polish on the silver.
On the Ides of March, we will march in the parade.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Barriers to effective communication

1. How well do we communicate?
We all believe we communicate well. We all believe we know the art of communicating. We are confident we have no difficulty (in) communicating. However, if we paused for a moment and thought about an instance or two, we might just begin to wonder.

          1                                            2
Raghu : Hi, Sundar!
Somu : …
Raghu  : Go to hell!
Rani : How is your mother today?
Devi : Much better.
Rani : I want to visit her. I’ll join you
           this evening.
Devi : She’ll be happy. But my grandpa is
           arriving. I have to get supper ready.
Rani: Okay. When are visitors allowed?

Joseph: Are you too busy, John?
John   : I’m completing  Experiment 3 in the
            Chemistry Lab Record.
Joseph: Oh.
John   : You need help? [Joseph nods] Okay.
             Tell me.
Joseph: Thanksda*. I don’t…

* ‘da’ is a suffix in Thamizh used between friends.    

Raju : [is answering an exercise on
            tenses, has his pen between his
            teeth, looking hard at the
            exercise sheet (as if that would
            somehow locate the answer for
Raghu: Move over. Let me help you.
Raju  : [moves away without a word]
Raghu: [angrily] There’s always a next
             time, my friend!

Sales Manager    : Sir, I need your
                              permission to attend my
General Manager: Permission? Don’t you
                              have any casual leave
Sales Manager    : No, sir.
General Manager: You’re a senior
                              manager. You shouldn’t
                              have mismanaged your
                              leave account. How
                              could you have planned
                              it so badly?
Sales Manager    :???

Supervisor: Babu, Can’t you ever
(accusingly)   do a thing right?
Babu         : Sir, I was only mending
( taken unawares) …………
F.M.          : You mean you were
(glaring)         fiddling.
Babu          : Sir, …..
(clearly upset)
F. M.          : Don’t argue with me.
(cutting him off)
Babu          : No, sir. Let me…..
F.M.           : How dare you talk
(threatening)    back to me?
Babu           : Yes, sir. I mean, no
(bewildered)     sir. (!)     

A few more instances of communication. Read on.


I had once submitted an article for consideration for publication in a magazine to be brought out by the Ministry of Education in an African country for which I was working on a contract. The article depicted the feelings of a frustrated teacher and how he viewed his students, his colleagues and his principal.
A top ministry official was very angry and threatened to cancel my contract. His accusations implied that I was referring to the local students and the principal and that my article was an affront to his nation and race.
I was perplexed because I thought that my article would be seen as no more than a literary piece based on imagination. I was naïve enough to expect objective assessment of my article because the official was highly educated. Instead, the officer perceived me not as a writer but as a foreigner who in his perception had no right to comment or say the things that I’d said in the article.


A young fresh teacher entered his class for the first time. While lecturing, he observed two women students chatting and smiling while looking at him on and off, and he concluded that they were not only disrespectful but mocking at him and that they were not behaving as women students should. When he warned them and put them in their places, one woman student got up to say that she and her friend had not done anything to deserve the warning; the teacher became enraged at this audacity and punished them in as many ways as he could think of. 

Communication in dialogues 2 and 3 goes on smoothly whereas in 1, 4, 5 and 6 you notice
barriers to communication, don’t you? The two incidents in 7 and 8 are two clear instances where barriers to communication are working effectively!

 Or think of some other ordinary events. Like, for instance, ordering a coffee. I might order a coffee, drink it, pay for it and leave the hotel. Or the server might come late to receive the order or bring the coffee late. Based on my perceptions and attitudes, I might draw inferences that are not there in the server’s behaviour, and what might follow could be unpleasant for the server and me as well. Let’s say somebody knocks on the door, I take a little time to reach the door, in the meantime, the knock gets longer and louder. I might not make much of the longer and the louder knock, open the door, speak to the person. Or influenced by my perceptions of how a person knocking at a door should behave, I might misinterpret the event and there could be trouble! And the guest may have his ideas of me for not answering the door immediately!

2. Barriers to communication

What are these barriers?
These barriers can be classified as ‘intrapersonal’, ‘interpersonal’ and ‘organizational’.
Intrapersonal refers to barriers coming from within an individual. Interpersonal refers to barriers arising from actions or no actions between individuals. Organizational combines intrapersonal and interpersonal barriers in the place of work.

What are barriers after all?

Obstacles or obstructions that prevent genuine communication.

3. kinds
Barriers are of two kinds: 1. internal [occurring within an individual and between individuals]  2. external [environment outside the individuals]

1. Internal Barriers
Communicating or not communicating depends on assumptions and expectations. In the eight samples presented in the previous pages are examples of assumptions and expectations.

In sample 1, Raghu considers Somu his friend [assumption], so greets him and expects response from Somu  but Somu doesn’t respond [probably he assumes, for whatever reason, Raghu is not his friend]. Raghu’s expectation is not fulfilled, he gets upset and says something unpleasant. The barriers are assumptions and nonfulfillment of expectations.

In sample 4, Raghu tries to help Raju but Raju doesn’t accept it. The barriers here are Raghu’s assumption that Raju would want help and Raju is perhaps too proud to accept help from anyone, even from Raghu who may be his friend.

In sample 5, the barrier is the authoritative attitude and the tone of the GM. He could’ve refused permission without being bossy. The sales manager assumes that exhausting casual leave and asking for a day’s permission is no crime. But the GM thinks so because he believes that no subordinate should exhaust casual leave early.

In sample 6, the barriers are [1] the floor supervisor’s assumption that a worker should observe silence, respond only by accepting his boss’s reprimand, and that he is haughty if he tries to respond [2] Babu’s assumption that he is entitled to explaining his position and his explanation is not arguing with his boss on equal terms. 

In sample 7, the barriers are the perceptions and the resultant assumptions and expectations. Because the article portrayed a negative picture, the ministry official saw the article through his perception of who a foreigner should be and interpreted the article as an offrent. Because I expected the ‘educated’ ministry official to look at the article as no more than an imaginary piece. Both of us failed to acknowledge that there could be difference between intended and perceived meanings irrespective of whether or not we were ‘educated’.

In sample 8, the teacher’s perceptions of how a woman student should behave in a classroom and the student’s perception of how a teacher should perceive her behaviour stand as barriers. The teacher felt he was superior and his superiority meant that no student should question his interpretation. The women students should not have thought it their right to chat and smile while looking at the teacher and expect the teacher to accept their behaviour.  

Perception is a view, an image, idea or understanding of people, places, things. It leads to assumptions. These assumptions lead to expectations. Now the questions is: how is perception formed?

                                       perceptions of
         |                                       |                       |                       |
   self image                         image of            health         relationship
         |                                     others                                 between speaker
         |                                        |                                       and listener
             Formed and expressed through
         |               |                |             |              |                    |
  language     body          stereo    culture    silence       physical 
                     language     types                                    characteristics

This box contains all the barriers arising from ‘intrapersonal’ and ‘interpersonal’ behaviour like ‘wrong assumptions’, ‘varied perceptions’, ‘various backgrounds’, ‘wrong inferences’, ‘prejudices’, ‘complexes –superior/inferior’, ‘lack in language use’, ‘mismatch between verbal and nonverbal communication’, ‘emotions, ‘being selective in focusing only on specific portions of message’, ‘cultural variations’ .

Self image
This refers to
  what you are, who you are as you grow out of your experience
    [your abilities, attitudes, values, emotions, feelings, needs, memory, thinking etc.]

In other words, you think of yourself as a superior, modest or inferior person. Non-English medium students, for instance, may behave confidently even if they are unable to use English as a medium.

Image of others
This refers to
the pictures you have of other people as superior, modest or inferior persons.

You may think well or ill of their language abilities, of their body language; you may or may not like their physical appearance [height, weight, colour, hair etc.], dress, perceptions, attitudes.  ‘he doesn’t like me’, ‘she looks pretty’, ‘he looks aggressive’, ‘she is so selfish’, ‘he thinks he’s an expert on women’, ‘she thinks she can teach me a thing or two’, ‘oh god, what colours does she choose’ are how we think about others.

This refers to
physical condition [ill or well], physical ease [comfortable or not], mental disposition [mood, motivation, willingness, confidence, curiosity, concern, fear, doubt and so on].

Relationship between you and others
This refers to
the closeness or distance you’ve developed or you’ll develop with people around you.

All these factors impinge on the communicating act every time, every moment favourably or unfavourably. They may become barriers to or support interaction.

2. External Barriers

They are: 1. location       2. noise         3. audience       4. authority

Location: This refers to the climate and the geography of the place of communication.
                ‘Climate’ refers to atmosphere available for communication. If music is
                blaring on one side, if heavy traffic flows on either side of the building, if a           
                politician’s voice amplified, the climate cannot be thought of as congenial to

Noise     : It is anything that makes it hard for a communication act to complete, anything
                that interrupts and makes sending or receiving messages difficult. It can be external
                like a noisy restaurant, construction noise outside, music blaring and
                deafening, traffic snarls and the resultant noise, children playing nearby. Or it can
                be internal such as poor use of language [vocabulary and structure],
                pronunciation, too low or high a volume, delivery speed, distracting
                mannerisms, body language seen as unpleasant.

Audience : This refers to people in the communication scene. They can influence a
                   communication. Presence or absence of one individual or certain individuals,
                   arrival or departure of a person or a group of persons in a communicating
                   situation may change the complexion of the communication. Say, your were
                   about to confide in your friend (leaning close) and somebody walked in,
                   you’d shut up (drawing away). Or you could be prepared to come out with
                   your story once a person was out of earshot. You may wait to pass on
                   information until someone you wanted to be present arrived. 

Authority : This is part of organizational barriers. Exercise of excessive authority
                   prevents open and frank and encourages pretence and routine. Again, a
                   management may have so many channels that communication can get
                   distorted. Communication in a team can become difficult if it consists of
                   people believing in different value systems. And there may be too many
                   messages to receive and hence there may be difficulty in comprehension.

When two or more than two people converse, more often than not, their efforts can fail for one reason or the other; the culprit could be how the speaker, the listener or both how they see themselves and others and other things in a communicating environment.

The intention of this article is to not frighten readers, not to picture communicating as an extremely arduous activity but to point out aspects that can hamper or hinder an attempt at communicating , and so to bear in mind these and proceed in such a manner as to help the other person feel comfortable and to conduct communicating as smooth as possible.