Gill is really firing out the posts this week!
It’s kind of funny. I’ve been on both sides of this scenario. There’s my old post about people who don’t speak the language but say “yes” anyway. I had a more recent experience with that. I was in Nashville a few years ago for my awesome job, and at one of the events, a woman was walking around with a tray of sushi. One of my coworkers asked, “What kind of sushi is this?” The woman responded with “Sushi.”
“coworker: What kind?
Coworker: What kind of fish?
At this point, we stopped asking questions and avoided the sushi.
On the other hand, I’ve been the probably stupid-looking person who can’t speak the language. I don’t know how many times I mentioned this, but I spent five weeks in Northern Quebec in an attempt to improve my ability to speak French about 16 years ago, wow do I feel old. While I was there, I painfully learned the lesson that there are multiple words for the same thing. I have only heard the French word for “steps” as “escalier.” But apparently, people say “marches” as well. So one day, when I was really new and particularly tired, I was walking with someone. I may not have been using my cane very well, I don’t remember. At one point, the person I was with said “marches.” I thought they were telling me to keep walking, which perplexed me because I *was* walking, was I not walking fast enough…and at this point I learned with my shins the other meaning of the word “marches.” I tripped over the steps, thankfully they were going up, and looked like a dork.
And don’t get me started on the whole formal and informal “you” when French isn’t your first language. Why can’t they at least start with the same letter so I can bluff a little bit? That first night with my host-mother, I was desperately trying to avoid using you at all, but figured I’d better get on with it, and used the formal, but I was scared of offending her with a single word.
But I should stop talking about my own life. Take it away, Gill!
I have been places where people have yelled at immigrants for messing up orders and directions. I have often wondered what it would be like not to understand the language or turns of phraise that we as English speakers use freely.
A few years back my sister worked as a bank manager in Toronto. She worked with people of all races and backgrounds, some had been born here, but others, like one of her colleagues had left a war torn country. One day my sister said “could you bring this to me?` he obliged, and asked, “what do I do with this?` to which she responded “oh just plop it on my desk.` the colleague must have been bewildered because his reply was “tell me of this word plop?`
Not always Universal
Like in the instance above some words or phraises may not make the trip over from English, but this makes for an opportunity to relate and bridge gaps.
Pass The Compassion
The next time someone mistakes your chicken and spinach salad for something else, don’t resort to uncivilized behavior like racial slurs or telling them to “go back to their country!` just remember that could have just as easily been you.
Ms. Gillie hoping we can work together for a better world