All sorts of communication issues are bound to crop up when you live in a place where interacting with people from all over the world is part of the daily grind. Honestly, it is linguistically fascinating, but not always efficient. Mis-communication, non-communication, dis-information, mis-understanding… sometimes straight dissing. It often reminds me a one of my very favorite childhood books, Bendemolena, by Jan Slepian and Ann Seidler.
Bendemolena is a kitten who lives in a very loud house and so she puts a pot on her head to make things quiet. This is a great strategy (akin to me and my ubiquitous earphones in Hong Kong…) But the problem arises when her mom starts to give her instructions about things she needs to do… and she hears: “Buffalo bink? Put the horse in the sink?” You see where this might lead.
So, what to do about this? Well, Bendemolena could just remove the pot. For me, I can take out the earphones, but I then I have to say, I [sort of] hear [some of] the words that are coming out of your mouth… but…
So, there are lots of acceptable, and not-so acceptable strategies for dealing. I have on one occasion or another tried all of the following:
- Nodding and hoping for a repeat
- Polite chuckle
- Making an educated guess for a response
- Saying, “Excuse me?”
- Saying, “Huh?”
- Saying, “WTF?”
- Giving up and walking away
- Handing the person whatever it is that I am holding in my hand (seriously)
- Replying in Spanish (works only if your interlocutor is most definitely NOT Spanish speaking)
- Saying, “I can’t hear you, text me….”
And there the trouble began.
Me via text: Hiya… Sorry have been a stranger, keeping very odd hours these days. Anyhow, thinking of you and thought I’d say hi!
Friend via text: Merci for the thoughts… also full on week for me: should be better next week. planning to be nakked but relieve on sat afternoon… let’s catch up!
Me out loud: W.T.F.
Me via text: Why are you planning on being naked? Why are you telling me?
Friend via text: I have three ways of interpretation to your reply which I will not clarify via sms… see you soon!
Me out loud: SERIOUSLY. W.T.F.
Me via text: No clue what you are talking about being naked – as usual we misunderstand each other!
Friend via text: Naked = more than tired! (too cold for the other one)
Me out loud: In what language??
Me via text: Oh my god. You mean “knackered”!
Friend via text: definitely a weird way of spelling and it doesn’t match the way I am pronouncing! it is a revelation!
Me out loud: So, I wonder how many people she’s been telling she would be naked on Saturday afternoon…
So there goes the whole, it will be a lot more clear in a text. Tho y i thot tht i duno cos mst msgs i get look lik dis, n usu hv no vwls.