29 November 2010

More on two/three

When I sent my previous post to Rich Homer, the flight instructor I mentioned earlier, he replied with the following story which I will quote verbatim:
... about 4 weeks ago I was flying from Labuan airfield back to Brunei with a Bruneian student pilot. The Air Traffic Controller asked us what altitude we wanted to transit back to Brunei at. My student pilot answered saying that we wanted 2000ft. Labuan ATC replied "roger, cleared to transit at 3000ft". My Bruneian student acknowledging the clearance replied "....cleared to 2000ft...". I was now a little bit confused so I said to ATC "...what altitude do you want us to transit at....?". ATC replied "...whatever altitude suits you best..." (or words to that affect). So I said in my British accent "....request 2000ft...". ATC replied "...roger cleared to transit at 3000ft...". Slightly aspirated myself I replied ".....cleared to transit at TREE TOUSAND FEET..." and got on with the rest of the flight.
It is interesting that he believed the best way to sort out the misunderstanding was to use his British accent; but this proved to be no help.

In her work on ELF-based teaching, Jennifer Jenkins stresses the importance of accommodation, adapting your speech to the needs of your listeners. In this case, the instructor did not know how to accommodate to the needs of the listener, so he emphasised his British accent instead. Unfortunately, this was not helpful.

I have explained to him that, if this occurs again, he might pronounce two more like 'do', using something similar to a [d] as the initial consonant. He might also use a fully back [u:] vowel rather than the fronted vowel we tend to use in Britain. Let's hope that this knowledge might help avoid a potentially catastrophic misunderstanding in the future.