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Research Report: Communication Observations


To find out how people make use of both standard and non-standard dialects, I made an observation of a conversation between an English teacher and his student. The teacher uses a standard dialect that is supported by institutions and characterized by proper grammar and vocabulary. The student was not ready to support this conversation appropriately, and his non-standard dialect distinguished him considerably. It was obvious that the student faced some challenges to comprehend the essence of the teacher’s message and needed some time to realize what he was expected to do. Apart from the dialect divergence, the student was using a simpler vocabulary whereas a teacher easily operated a big range of terms. For example, in his talk, the student used such common words as “to go” and “to have” while the teacher was able to substitute them with more complicated synonyms. However, in general, the use of different dialects does not create strong obstacles for the conversation, and both speakers have all chances to continue talking and achieve goals they have when beginning the conversation.


During the second observation, it was necessary to focus on speech communities and communities of practice. I chose to observe two communities, which are an online forum where a rock concert was discussed and a group of students who had to prepare a project presentation for the next class.

When observing the group of students, I saw that the members had their own vision of the problem and suggested their ideas with the help of the chosen vocabulary; however, they listened to each other’s thoughts and developed them in their own ways to find the best solution. When observing the online conversation, I encountered specific vocabulary that is used at the websites only. For instance, there are numerous cases of using such specific verbs like “e-mail”, “google”. Besides, some common words acquired the new meaning when applied during online communication. I noticed a substantial difference between the two observed conversations, and it is beyond all doubt that the style and vocabulary used in the second situation is inappropriate for the first case. However, it is not ruled out that the students from the observed group use specific vocabulary when joining online conversations.


To evaluate communication between people and their perception of /r/, I found it helpful to observe the conversation between a Native American and a French tourist. This kind of conversation was interesting and very informative for my research. The matter is that American /r/ and the French /r/ significantly differ from each other: while the American /r/ acts like a vowel in most cases, the French /r/ sounds somewhat tougher and more rolling. /R/ is one of the most difficult sounds in the French language that many people, especially strangers, pay attention to. Correspondingly, when the French tourist tried to pronounce some English words, he concentrated on /r/ pronunciation and confused the American a lot. The French pronunciation made communication between the two persons awkward: for instance, the tourist made accents on the last syllables, which strongly misled the Native American. I also noticed that the French tourist used some phrases which sounded obsolescent for a native speaker. It is not surprising, as language quickly evolves within its native environment, but these new trends are quite slowly passed to the countries where the language is considered foreign.


Social variation is characterized by numerous factors, and age difference is one of them. For the evaluation of communication between the representatives of different social variables, communication between a college student and his uncle was chosen. Slang and jargon are considered to be an important indicator of one’s social belonging. The student made use of such words as awesome, groovy and hottie, which seemed strange to his uncle who still preferred to use the traditional vocabulary. The conversation took place in a supermarket when the college student did shopping with his uncle. The student used a lot of simple constructions and slang words. This observation shows that adults find it difficult to comprehend youngsters while for the youth it often becomes a surprise.


Today regional variation of English dialects becomes more and more noticeable. To study the variety, I used the opportunity to observe communication between a citizen of Texas and a person from New York. It was interesting to notice the difference between their dialects. The first issue that I paid attention to was different pronunciation of sounds /t/, /l/, and /r/. This conversation took place in the airport when the Texas resident asked the New York citizen about the timetable. A woman from Texas had a specific accent that somewhat confused a New York citizen. In particular, she asked about the latest “night flight” from New York to Texas, which sounded like “nut flight”, as the Texas accent presupposes the use of monophthong [a]. The person from New York had to ask the woman to repeat her question. It is interesting to see how people living in one country have to put effort to understand each other.