I first realised our advantage at a conference last year. The speakers came from across northern Europe, but they all gave their talks in English – or a sort of English. Germans, Belgians and French people would stand up and, in monotones and distracting accents, read out speeches that sounded as if they’d been turned into English by computers. Sometimes the organisers begged them to speak their own languages, but they refused. Meanwhile the conference interpreters sat idle in their booths.
Each new speaker lost the audience within a minute. Yet whenever a native English-speaker opened his mouth, the audience listened. The native speakers sounded conversational, and could make jokes, add nuance. They weren’t more intelligent than the foreigners, but they sounded it, and so they were heard. Here, in microcosm, was a nascent international hierarchy: native English-speakers rule.
While there may be a valid point in here somewhere, this writer comes off like a jerk. I understand his point that speakers at a conference can be less effective in a second language than in their first. However, maybe he should consider that he is the one with the problem. Why can’t he understand their English?
There are times when accents and grammar can be so divergent (of course this assumes an ideal, which really differs widely) that the language is incomprehensible. However, this wasn’t really the situation that this author found himself in. He is commenting on their lack of “proper” English and inability to “connect” to the audience. Both of these are quite subjective on his part and signal his lack of ability to fill the gaps in communication as much as the presenters lack of communicative skills.