We Take Communication For Granted Until We Can’t Communicate

I feel like there’s a post in here somewhere, but I don’t know if I can find it.

I had the weirdest experience. I decided to play some online Uno. So, I logged in, and picked a game. What I didn’t know was I joined a game with 3 people who don’t speak English, nor do they speak any language that I had the slightest idea about. I tweeted a couple of the messages that they fired up to see if someone could tell me what language they were speaking, so maybe I could auto-translate it. I knew machine translaters can be bad, but at least I might have a shred of a clue.

Nobody could tell me what they were speaking, so I played Uno with a pack of folks speaking some foreign language and had no idea what they were saying.

I had written something in English, hoping maybe one of them would say their language’s equivalent of “I don’t speak English” so maybe I could figure it out, but after I spoke, my 3 fellow players spoke no more. I was so sad. They were having fun, and then I killed it!

I got thinking about how weird that was. Even if I’m having trouble in French, I might have a snowball’s chance of figuring out what people are saying. If I lose grip on the conversation, chances are I’ll get it again. I can’t even fathom what it must feel like if you don’t speak the language at all. Imagine if you have to leave your country and go somewhere, and you don’t have a lot of choice in where you’re going. Say you’re running away, and you have to pick some place far. So, you end up somewhere where you don’t speak the native language at all. Just imagine what a steep learning curve that would be. Just envision how much frustration you would feel.

And then, let’s go one step further. Let’s just say that you become ill and need help. Can you imagine receiving medical care when you can’t understand what’s going to happen? I know they can get interpreters, but what if they don’t get one?

Or even scarier, picture that you have become injured so you can no longer speak or express what you’re thinking. So, people are talking to you in what should be your native tongue, but they might as well be speaking Klingon. And good luck saying something back. You may want to tell them that you’re scared or need to go to the bathroom or you’re thirsty, but the words don’t come.

And all this thought came from a game of Uno! Yes, I admit I’m weird.

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