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讨论若有难度最好用外语

更新时间:2018-6-12 20:43:46 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The huge benefits of working in your second language
讨论若有难度最好用外语

I recently spent four months working at the BBC in London, and English always sounded far smarter in my head than when it came out of my mouth. I often forgot words, made grammatical slips, and missed the usual precision of my native Spanish. It felt like trying to eat soup with a fork. As I write this, I have a dictionary open in front of me because I have learned to mistrust my ideas about what some words mean.

前段时间,我在英国广播公司(BBC)伦敦办公室工作了四个月。使用英语作为工作语言时,我脑海中想的比说出来的可高明得多。我常张嘴忘词,犯些语法纰漏,失掉了使用母语西班牙语时的精炼准确。对我来说,用英语工作交流的感觉就像是用叉子舀汤喝。就连我此刻用英语写下这篇文章时,手边也放着本英文字典。因为我实在是怕自己对一些词汇涵义的理解不够准确。

But there is a silver lining for those who are working in languages other than their native one. Research has recently shown that people who can speak a foreign language are likely to be more analytical. Other studies have suggested that people who are bilingual make decisions in different ways from those with one language.

但对于我们这样在非母语环境里工作的人来说,不幸中的万幸是有研究表明能说外语的人通常分析能力较强。另有一些研究还指出,具备双语能力的人做决策的方式与仅会母语的人有所不同。

It suggests that as well as giving you an extra string to your bow in terms of where you can work and who you can work with, a foreign language also makes you a different kind of worker. But the real question is – does it make you a better worker?

研究还指出,能够使用非母语工作的人具备额外优势,可以大大拓展工作地点及合作伙伴的选择范围,能让你在职场中与众不同。但我这里要提的一个问题是,使用外语工作是否会让我们的职场表现更好?

Emotional distance

情感距离

According to research by Albert Costa, a research professor of psychology at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain, when people take reasoning tests in a non-native language, they tend to make fewer mistakes than people doing the same tests in their native language.

来自西班牙巴塞罗那科斯塔庞培法布拉大学(Pompeu Fabra University,简称UPF)的心理学教授葛思达(Albert Costa)说,进行逻辑测试时,使用非母语的人比使用母语的人犯的错误要少一些。

“In a foreign language, people seem to take more psychological distance when assessing risks,” says Costa. “They have a lesser emotional impact and engage in a more analytical mind process.”

他解释道,“人们在运用外语时,会在风险评估时保持更大的心理距离;他们较少受到情绪的影响,而更倾向于理性分析思考”。

Costa and his team speculate that this “foreign language effect”, as they call it, is tied to the emotional distance some people feel when speaking a foreign language. The causes are not clear, but it might have to do with the contexts in which you use it. For instance, “if you use it with friends, in relevant situations, you will have a greater emotional engagement with it”, Costa says.

葛思达教授及其团队称这种现象为“外语效应”,并猜测这与人们在说外语时产生的情感上的距离感有关。此效应产生的机制尚不清楚,但兴许与使用外语时的情境有关。葛思达教授举例说道,“如果讲外语的对象是朋友的话,这种情境下就会有较多的情感投入”。
 
It could also be that if you learn this second language at a very early age, you experience greater “emotional engagement”, he says. Or is it simply that your brain has to work harder while you speak a foreign language?

他补充说,“当然也不乏一些其他原因,比如那些很小年纪就学了外语的人,使用外语时情感投入就会比较多;又或者仅仅是因为说的是外语,人脑运作更为紧张”。

According to psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner for economics in 2002, in his book Thinking Fast and Slow, cognitive strain makes people more analytical. So the foreign language effect might be explained because performing tasks in a foreign language requires more taxing thought processes.

获2002年诺贝尔经济学奖的心理学家卡尼曼(Daniel Kahneman)在他的著作《思考,快与慢》(Thinking Fast and Slow)中就提出,认知紧张(cognitive strain)能够增强分析能力。使用外语完成工作任务时要调用更多的理性思考,这兴许在某种程度上能解释"外语效应"的现象。

But Costa claims that, when there is no emotion involved in a particular decision, the foreign language effect seems to disappear. “It will only happen if the context in which you are making the decision triggers an emotional response in you,” he says.

但葛思达教授认为,若是做决策的过程中无任何情感投入,就不存在“外语效应”。他补充说,“做决策时,只有在情绪反应也被激发的情况下,‘外语效应’才会发生”。

Other psychologists are finding that speaking a foreign language leads to differences in the way people think and react. Ceri Ellis, a psychology researcher at the University of Manchester, says that people can be more objective in a foreign language, as they are better at deflecting false criticism about their own culture when it is expressed in a foreign language.

一些心理学家同样指出,外语会影响人们思考和反应的方式。曼彻斯特大学(University of Manchester)的心理学研究人员厄里斯(Ceri Ellis)介绍道,人们在说外语的时候会更客观,比如,他人若批评你的本国文化,即或这种批评是错的,用外语表达时你的回应就会比较客观委婉。

“The farther removed the second language is from your mother tongue, the bigger the effect,” says Ellis in an interview.

厄里斯在一次访谈中还提到,“一般来说,母语与外语从渊源上来说差异越大,这种效应就越显著”。

So, my own awkwardness when working in English was perhaps compensated by a more accurate way of thinking. This small perk, of course, would have vanished if I developed a tighter and more emotional relationship with the language.

所以,虽然我在工作中使用英语颇不自在,但获得的补偿是我的思维方式更为清晰准确。当然,到我能熟练运用英语,与英语有更紧密的情感联结后,这种补偿作用就会随之而消失。

So perhaps I was lucky to not fall in love during my time in the UK.

由此看来,我在英国那段时间没陷入一场爱情,实在是我的幸运。

A better negotiator

更出色的谈判者

But what does it mean to be more analytical? Suppose that 600,000 people have a disease and will die if they are not treated. You are presented with two options: either give them a drug that kills 400,000 of them, or a second drug that has a 33.3% chance of saving all the 600,000, but a 66.6% chance of saving no-one. What do you do?

分析能力更强是什么意思呢?让我来举个思维实验的例子。假使有六十万人同时患上了一种疾病,如果不及时诊治都会死掉。你现在面临着两种选择:选项一是给他们中三分之二的人一种死亡药剂,让这四十万人死掉,而剩下的人能活下来;选项二则是将一种药分发给所有人,但有三分之一的概率是所有人都能存活,而三分之二的概率是所有人都会死亡。你会如何选择呢?

If you chose the drug that would kill 400,000 of the patients, it was the right call – it is the safest scenario. But it is also the option that most people would choose to avoid, because it is presented in a disturbing way.

如果你选择的是第一种,分发死亡药剂,让四十万人死亡,其实是两害相权取其轻的正确选择。但大部分人却不会这样选择,因为它怎么看都叫人心里不舒服。

Curiously, when people are presented with the same scenario but told instead that they will save 200,000 people, most of them choose it. The mathematics is the same, but the framing of the question is different and affects how people answer.

奇怪的是,当人们面对同样的情境,但是选项一换了一种设问,改为要求人们拯救二十万人的性命,这时大部分人就会选择第一种。虽说最终计算的结果相同,但问题的设问方式不同就影响了人们的答案。

People who make the right call in this sort of psychological experiment are often the minority, and they are considered to have a more analytic mindset since they are not prone to falling into the trap of biases or shortcuts that lead to mistakes in reasoning. In a business context, being able to avoid reasoning pitfalls could be extremely beneficial if you are making critical decisions.

在这个心理测试中,只有少数人选择选项一,而这些人被认为有更强的分析能力。因为他们没有掉入偏见的陷阱,没有简单轻率地下结论,犯下逻辑错误。在商业情境中,特别是需要做重要的商业决策时,能避免犯逻辑错误是非常有益的。

The upper hand

用非母语可占上风

Also, having some distance on a situation can be really helpful. It can also make emotionally draining situations more bearable. This could be particularly helpful during high-stakes negotiations.

而且,在某些情境中保持适当的心理距离于己有利,也使人更能承受情绪疲累之时的压力。特别是在高风险谈判时帮助尤大。

While at first glance, negotiating in a language other than your mother tongue might seem a disadvantage, it could also make you the most cool-headed person in the room.

乍看之下,使用非母语进行谈判似乎是一种弱势,但其实它会让你成为谈判桌上头脑最冷静的人。

“Many people feel insulted when they are negotiating,” says Costa. “If we could have a more relaxed approach, things would be better. Speaking a foreign language allows you to buy time in a negotiation. You can act like you have not understood for thinking your answer.”

葛思达教授说,“很多人在谈判时容易感觉自己受到了冒犯。但倘若我们放平心态,就不会那么难受了。在谈判中使用外语,能为你争取更多的时间。你可以表现得好像没太听懂,以便更从容地思考如何答复”。

This is exactly the sort of trick expert international negotiators such as diplomats and business people often employ. Not being a very fluent speaker can also be useful as a strategy to ‘sell yourself short’ and appear as less smart than you really are. This is a move that might make your opponent fail to cover all their bases and give you an unexpected advantage.

这个谈判技巧常常被跨国谈判专家如外交官或商务人士等使用。利用非母语不太流利可以作为一种“自揭其短”的谈判策略,让自己看起来好像不那么机敏。采用这种策略会让对方更轻易地暴露自己的底线,而给你带来意料之外的优势。

So, next time you know you need to have a difficult discussion with a colleague, it might be better to do it in a foreign language.

因此要是你下回要跟同事开展一场有难度的讨论,记得最好用外语。

Some research even suggests that aggressive words ‘hurt’ less when they are not heard in your native tongue. So whatever is said, it could be less likely to permanently strain a working relationship, which could prove a crucial advantage if you still have to see and talk to the other person at work every day.

也有研究表明,一些言辞过激的词语用非母语表达“杀伤力”会小很多。不论你说了什么,用外语的话都不会对工作关系造成永久性的伤害。要是你往后还得天天与这位同事打交道的话,这好处就更为明显。

While in theory speaking a foreign language seems to help people to assess situations more objectively, in real life it is complicated. Ellis’s research shows it seems to protect people from false — and probably ill-meaning — reproach. But she also found that pride can also serve to undo this effect. She warns that this might appear in “a workplace with a lot of intergroup conflicts", meaning that people are likely to be blind to valid criticism when it comes from someone they perceive as ‘a foe’.

虽说从理论上看,说外语能让人更客观地评估情势,但现实生活则没有那样简单。厄里斯的一项研究表明,使用外语看起来能让人免受错误指责甚至恶意攻击的伤害,但她也发现,傲慢的态度会消弭这种作用,像是在“团队冲突较多的工作环境”里这种效用就荡然无存。通常来说,在充满敌意和冲突的团队中,如果提出意见的成员是自己眼中的竞争对方,即便是本就应接受的批评或该采纳的意见,他们也会选择听而不闻。

There is no research so far that could confirm this idea, but anyone who has had to work with a rival team might know what Ellis is talking about. The foreign language effect may be not enough to counter team pride.

尽管目前尚无相关研究能够证实这一结论。但在竞争环境中工作过的人应该能理解上述结论。“外语效应”会被团队间的彼此傲慢所消弭。

Real life

现身说法

Personally, I don’t remember being more rational during my time working in London. It could be my English was good enough to cancel the effect, or I simply didn’t notice. But many other people who work in a foreign language agreed with the study when I told them about it.

就我自身经历来看,我记不得自己在伦敦工作时思维有多理性。或许是因为我的英文还不错,所谓的“外语效应”并不存在;又或许是因为我自己也没太注意。但我跟一些在外语环境中工作的人讨论时,他们都认为确有其事。

Natalia Vivas, a Colombian entrepreneur and UX consultant who now lives in London, recalls how easy it was to broker a more favourable contract with a Swedish client in English. “I didn’t fear telling him ‘this is what it costs’,” she says.

维瓦斯(Natalia Vivas)是一名来自哥伦比亚的创业者,她目前居住在伦敦。她也是一名用户体验设计咨询师。她回忆有一次她用英语跟一名瑞典顾客谈合同,轻而易举就争取到优惠的条件。她说:“我一点都不避讳,直接告诉他‘就是得花这么多钱’”。

But the second language effect might not be the only reason that she was able to be blunt with her client. As foreigners, they were unlikely to meet again too.

当然,她能跟客户直言不讳并不完全是因为“外语效应”。可能也因为他们彼此来自不同国家,不会再次见面打交道。

“With local clients in Spanish, and particularly with big ones, the negotiation was a lot slower, and I felt a lot more insecure,” she explains.

她解释道,“然而,当我与西班牙当地客户,特别是一些大客户用母语西班牙谈判时,谈判过程就拖得很长,我也觉得较没安全感”。

For some, their limited vocabulary in a foreign language may be the reason for being succinct and rational.

对一些人来说,他们掌握的外语词汇量不足,是他们表达更简洁也更理性的主要原因。

"It is easier to explain my team what I want from them than to express them the feelings I associate with what I want", says Maria Paz Castaneda, a Colombian engineer who works in an oil refinery in Rotterdam, Netherlands. "In Spanish, I can come up with five ways of saying one thing, but in Dutch, I only can think of one."

卡斯坦尼达(Maria Paz Castaneda)是一名哥伦比亚裔的工程师,目前在荷兰鹿特丹当地的一家原油提纯公司工作。他就说,“用荷兰语向我的团队表达我要什么,以及背后的所思所想会比较难,只直截了当地跟他们说我想要他们干什么就简单多了。如果用我的母语西班牙语,表达一件事我至少能想到五种不同的表达方式。但用荷兰语,我只能想到一种”。

There is also the challenge of understanding a different culture and cracking politeness codes.

对于外语使用者来说,对他国文化的理解和礼仪的遵守也是很大的挑战。

“I felt anxious about the way people write their emails, how do they greet and say goodbye,”  Vivas says about his current London job. Again, being succinct is a smart way of not taking a lot of risks.

维瓦斯谈及自己目前在伦敦的工作时说,“如何写邮件、打招呼、道别,这些事情我都会蛮紧张的”。而且说多错多,最聪明的方法就是尽量简洁表达。

The combined effect of all that is that many foreign-language workers have to use their brains a lot more than their native-speaker peers. As she says, "in English, I have to take my time to think.”

综上而言,相比于母语工作者,外语工作者要更多地用脑思考。就如维瓦斯说的那样,“用英语的话,思考的时间会比较多”。

Being bilingual and working in a non-native language makes you a different worker, not necessarily a worse or better one. If your job needs you to be a quick-witted and accurate communicator, another language most likely makes thing more difficult. But if your work calls for a slow, rational and detached mind, using a foreign tongue gives you a small push.

在双语环境中用非母语工作的员工比较与众不同,这个不同倒并不一定是更好或是更不好。如果你的工作要求你是个思维机敏又表达准确的沟通者,用外语可能会造成一些工作难度;但倘若你的工作需要深思熟虑、理性而客观的思考,那么使用外语会有所帮助。

Too bad that my job in London demanded both skills.

很不幸的是,我在伦敦的工作兼具了以上两方面的要求。

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