All posts tagged: language barrier

Language Barrier

Language is a funny thing. You can say a lot in a few words, you can say nothing in a 20-minute speech, and you can even shout without even opening your mouth–with just a glance or a gesture. They say that some things are universal, like a smile, but even that can belie one’s true feelings. Once again I’m writing about language, because I often find myself in these predicaments where there are miscommunications, and they’re not always because there are different languages being spoken. It’s one thing if I’m speaking English and someone else is speaking Mandarin and  neither the twain shall meet. I accept that we’re both going to be looking at each other in confusion and smiling in the interim. It’s when we’re actually speaking the same language and not understanding one another that gets to me. However, I always have to remind myself that not all English is the same. The Queen’s English is not the same as American English, is not the same as Australian English, and is not the …

Meet the Parents; or My Unexpected Language Immersion Trip

This is my third time visiting South Africa and this time I wanted to see the other side of the country; see Johannesburg. We could’ve flown, but I like road trips, so we packed up the car and made the 15 hour drive. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help Efrem drive because I can’t drive a manual car and while I’ve asked him to teach me dozens of times, that request hasn’t been fulfilled. So he was on his own for that long drive. We planned 10 days between Joburg and Pretoria, where I could see where he spent much of his first years in SA, meet his friends, and meet his mom and sister. I was excited and nervous to meet people, but I think there were definitely some miscommunications, and for me, some unanticipated consequences of this meet and greet. As soon as we arrived we went to one of his friend’s houses for dinner. This began my nonstop consumption of injera and my first taste of what was to be a long Amharic filled …

The Importance of Language

I’ve always had a real desire to learn other languages, and I think I have a pretty good knack for it when I actually get into intensive study. Over the course of my schooling, I’ve studied French (the most), Spanish, and Portuguese (while abroad). The only language I’ve really managed to retain is Portuguese given that it’s the only language that I had to learn in the context of actually living and not just with conjugation tables in a classroom. I can still read French and Spanish pretty well, and if spoken slowly I can somewhat understand, but any attempt to speak it will come out as Portuñol or Françagese (or whatever you wanna call it) Anyway, this summer, which hasn’t even ended yet, has really emphasized to me the importance of language. How powerful language is. While in Taiwan I couldn’t even pretend to read, speak, or understand ANY mandarin, but still managed to get by on nonverbal communication or very broken English. That exercise by itself was such a lesson—how to break down your …

Made in Taiwan

(Written yesterday in Tokyo-Narita Airport) I am finally en route back to the United States and I will say my first excursion to the continent of Asia has exceeded all of my expectations. I never really cared too much about coming to this part of the world. My first priorities were always the continent of Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and maybe the Mediterranean countries at some point. The only country I really had considered wanting to visit in Asia was India. I think Asia was always a bit more frightening because of the homogeneity of the population where I would stick out like an eye-sore, and that none of their languages are latin based, so that even if I wanted to look up something in a dictionary, I couldn’t because it would be all characters that all look the same to me. But how wrong I was. This has been an incredible experience. I think Taiwan was a great starting point for tackling Asia because it is so advanced and so friendly. Many of …

“Okay, okay. Let’s GO!”

*Sigh* so we went back to Taipei, sans our Taiwanese partners. Mal and I had one last meal with our great partners this morning at breakfast, granted it wasn’t nearly as interesting as the majority of the meals we’ve had with the two of them. Then we packed up our stuff and loaded the bus. It was so sad! I didn’t think I would be as sad as I was to leave my new friends. Despite our inabilities to fully communicate most of the time, the important stuff always made it through translation, and we always had a good time even if it wasn’t completely understood what was said in either direction. This trip has definitely been a learning experience especially one in patience as far as communicating is concerned. Part of the course was to do a project with our partners on a public health topic and compare Taiwan to the US and then present it. In English. Maybe we didn’t have the best or most thoroughly researched presentation, and maybe my multimedia didn’t …