Saturday, April 20, 2013

Speaka da Eengleesh?

Thanks to everyone who left encouraging comments after my last post.  Sunday turned out to be a good day, so on the whole last weekend was more than satisfactory.  I hope folks don't mind that I don't always respond to every individual comment.  I would if I felt that I had something of value to say, but oftentimes I just don't feel like I could say anything other than ":-) Thanks!" to everyone.  Not that there's anything wrong with ":-) Thanks!"  I guess I just feel that if I can't come up with something personalized or clever, I may as well just let it be.

I had to have a word with one of my employees this week, about appropriate comments.  English is not her first language.  She was calling a series of clients to reschedule them.  What she meant to say to each of them was "I'm sorry to bug you, but..."  What she actually said was "I'm sorry to be a bugger..."  I heard her say this to two clients in a row.  When she got off the second phone call, I explained to her that "bugger" has, shall we say, other implications.  How I put it to her: bugger is when a man has sex with someone in their rear end.  She giggled and turned pink, and assured me that she would not be discussing buggery with any of our clients in the future.

Lately I find that I spend a lot of my time at work translating.  Not between languages, although I do speak passable French.  I have to translate from person A's English to person B's English.  I once heard that each of us speaks in a unique idiolect: the individual's version of a dialect.  Experience has proven this to be true, and despite some commonalities, messages often are lost from one idiolect to the next.  I can't tell you how many times, after A has spoken to B about something, A and B come away with completely different understandings of the outcome of their discussion.

I work with one person whose first language is English, and yet she has desperately bad communication skills.  Whenever I need to speak with her I gird my loins, as it were, because I know I need to expend quite a bit of effort in order to a) understand her and b) make sure she understands me.  She speaks very quickly, and tends to use pronouns without antecedents.  In other words, for example, she'll start talking about "he" or "him" without first specifying which of our many male co-workers she's referring to.  I need to stop her every couple of sentences to ask her to be more specific.  It gets irritating pretty quickly.  Understanding her is hard work.

She also infuriates people by failing to listen.  Her mind is always whirring away, thinking about what she's going to say next.  She has insisted to me more than once that I have not said something which I specifically remember saying to her.  By now I know the way to avoid trouble; if it's important, put it in writing.  Even if I have already given her a verbal heads up, she's also going to get an e-mail from me.  She's great at her job, and is genuinely good-natured.  I remind myself of this often when I start running out of patience.

Which failures of communication bug you the most?

16 comments:

DarcKnyt said...

I'm glad last weekend worked out all right in the final analysis. And I know exactly what you mean about translating in English. Making sure people properly understand all concerned parties is a bear if ever a bear there was, linguistically, and it's only getting worse.

On the upside, I learned a new word today. Your blog has proven to be educational. Thanks.

Vanessa T said...

ROFL at your employee! That is so funny! :D

I guess there are a lot of grammar things that bother me. I am married to a grammar cop, too, and between the 2 of us, we're a major pain. Our kids speak well, though! ;)

Sparkling Red said...

DarcKnyt: Great! I love being educational.

Vanessa: When your kids get a little older, ask them to send me their resumes. I'll hire them in a hot second.

LL Cool Joe said...

Here in the UK we tend to use the word bugger all the time, and I don't think we quite realise what we are saying. Well I do but I pretend I don't.

And I'm always so upset when you don't answer my comments. I shed a tear every time I come here and find you haven't bothered to answer them.

Okay, I'm joking. :D

Jenski said...

Your conversation about buggering is great. I am constantly "translating" English between my friend from TX and my friend from Japan. Sometimes I wonder if they talk much with each other when I'm not around.

My biggest language pet peeve these days is "that" vs. "who" when people are talking about a person and use "that". Picky, much? :-)

Granny Annie said...

Yikes! My first language is English but I never knew that meaning of "bugger".

My dad used to always say he was just piddling around until a friend told him that meant peeing.

Sometimes even English can be a foreign language.

wigsf3 said...

Failures in communication. Yeah. That's life with Carmine.

Tracy Moore said...

Oh Spark...that story is hilarious! I only learned what that word meant about a year ago. Knew it was naughty but not the full extent lol.

The ways we can fail in communication are immense! The way the people interpret things differently, plus trying to read a person's expressions etc. boggles my mind sometimes.

I used to be terrible with wanting to correct people in their grammar and spelling. Now though...I usually let it go.

Sparkling Red said...

LL Cool Joe: Okay, okay, I'm answering! See? I DO love you! ;-)

Jenski: That's not too picky. Although you might catch me making that mistake!

Granny Annie: Ah, yes, I am familiar with the term "piddling". English is a very strange language.

wigsf: Ah yes, Carmine. He's a special case.

Tracy: It used to bug me when people made up words and re-organized grammar on the fly, but I've learned to love it as a form of improv poetry. As long as meaning is communicated, it's good enough for me.

G. B. Miller said...

I work for the guv'ment, so I always have a failure to communicate with my fellow co-workes.

The ones that bug me the most, are when an employee would insist that they have an "x" amount of hours on the books so they can't understand why their paycheck might be short, but conveniently forget that they threw a hissy fit the previous pay period and insisted on using the time in question then as opposed to now.

And when adults try to act hip and use teen text language/phrases in their phone calls and e-mails.

Lynn said...

I offended someone originally from eastern Europe by saying "Good for you!" She took that the wrong way and I never could understand why. I guess it works both ways.

Lynn said...

I offended someone originally from eastern Europe by saying "Good for you!" She took that the wrong way and I never could understand why. I guess it works both ways.

Sparkling Red said...

G.B.: I agree; peoples' memories are very selective.

Lynn: Really? That's odd. I haven't heard that one before.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

I speeks real gud. Never not have been understand. :-)

Granny Annie said...

Hope this isn't confusing communications. My Araucauna hens hide their eggs from me. They don't sit on them they just hide them. Guess that is why they are called Easter Egg Chickens. Not only are their eggs green, they make me go on an egg hunt:) Anyway, I found a cache today and have placed them with a few other eggs under June Hen. She accepted them with great excitement and scooped them safely under her wings. Mark your calendar for May 15th as we await another hatching. There are another 17 eggs and your guess will stand. I just hope June doesn't suddenly realize she's been at this too long and give up. Annie

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: I understood every word.

Granny Annie: Green eggs? Like in green eggs and ham? That is bizarre. And great news! I am rooting for the egglets and momma June.