Euringlish: Fried Air and Confusion

You may be surprised to discover what you’d hear in a joint meeting of people involved in European foundations, depending on who is speaking and where they are from. In Italy, for example, nonsense, bragging, rubbish, baloney or other inflated boasting is referred to with an expression that translates as “fried air.” In the Netherlands, we would refer to it as “baked air.” And elsewhere, you may hear “hot air” instead. Fried, baked, hot…  Isn’t it interesting that we have similar but different expressions?  And how many useful things you can pick-up in the EFC lunchroom!

When we collaborate in Europe, we tend to use English as a working language. But sometimes we forget it is actually Euringlish. It sounds like English but it isn’t. That is a major risk factor and occasionally a source of frustration in working together. There are three main risks involved with collaboration among people with different mother tongues and with the use of Euringlish: one is that people are hesitant to speak up because they lack confidence in their English.  A second risk is that people actually do not understand what is said because their English is not good enough or they do not know the words that are being used. And third, people make up words — creating confusion and talking nonsense (fried or baked).

Both native English speakers and non-native speakers have a role to play. Key steps in managing the issue and reducing confusion are to be aware of these risks, avoid jargon and fancy words when you speak, and ask for explanations or clarification if you do not understand what is being said. True, communicating will take more time, but there is just no other way. Some of the events Grantcraft is involved in and tools we are developing can be of help.

  • On 5 October at the Grantmakers East Forum Annual Meeting in Riga, Estonia, panelists Juliet Prager, Jotham Sietsma, Olha Kotska, and Michael Fembak presented a variety of experiences about collaboration among European foundations. Here is an interview with two of the panelists.
  • On 27 October from 2:00-3:30 EST, the Foundation Center will host a webinar on “Joining Forces: Funder Collaboratives for International Projects.” RSVP to secure your spot on this free call, which will explore how funder collaboratives help grantmakers aim for larger goals, distribute risks, learn together, and achieve greater impact.
  • Around the same time at EFC, we are starting to develop a companion guide to the 2009 GrantCraft guide on “Funder Collaboratives — Why and How Funders Work Together.”  We will look at how the lessons from the original guide apply to European collaboration efforts and we will identify additional challenges (and benefits) that are related to the huge amount of diversity in Europe. 

Between October and December 2011 we will be collecting experiences and interviewing practitioners. GrantCraft guides draw on your practice. If you have had experience with European funder collaboratives — good or bad, as a funder or otherwise — please share your thoughts with us. You can post them publicly as a comment on this blog or directly via e-mail to rherweijer@efc.be.  GrantCraft guides always quote contributors anonymously.