Monday, 6 May 2013

Rendezvous with non-English speakers

Being an English speaker among English-speaking natives, I had never imagined the fun of being with non-English speakers. I was in Switzerland for an official conference, when I started experiencing the effects of lingual change. Let me tell you some of the legendary moments I can still giggle on.

I decided to delight myself in a French restaurant. The menu card in French looked like a crossword puzzle. But, somehow I managed to make noodles out of Nouilles due to a small graphic after the name. The French serveur, who was almost on skateboard all the while, stood by me for at least 10 minutes to absorb the details of my order. I explained him the whole procedure of making noodles to escape any kind of bad experiences. With my loud actions and mimes, I was able to tell him that I do not want non-vegetarian touch in my Nouilles. After a while I was served with delicious looking noodles to raise my temptations, which brewed away as soon as I sniffed. It was cooked in FISH OIL!  

Next morning, I had to reach a conference via public transport. I googled about the route options that would be available to me. I had to take a train to Paradeplatz, for which I had to hire a taxi to reach the station. I had to hurl from one taxi to another with one word on my tongue Paradeplatz. I asked to every taxi but all I was getting was a perplexed look. I showed the spelling I had jotted down last night to a driver who pronounced it differently with some silent consonants and different vowel sound. Pa -ra -da - pla - z (with T silent) or t(with Z silent) Huh! I should have known that!

When people around you, suddenly start talking in their native language while looking at you, certainly they ought to be discussing you, suspense reaches the climax. You try hard to recall all your kinesics’ lessons to make out what their body language is saying. Soon I realized that it is far more difficult to understand the language of whole body without the language of tongue. And, I kept running my thoughts to try and catch some context. That is a very awkward position to be in, believe me.

Next day, I happened to meet a native speaker in the strange land who, like an angel, ebbed all my hitches with single sway of LingoDiction. With LingoDiction, an offline app for iOS, I got to know all the frequently used words with their audio pronunciation. Then, I faced the same bunch of foreign language speakers with my armours ready to their attacks. I pretended that I cannot understand like before but I could atleast make out the context of their conversation which, to my embarrassment, wasn’t related to me at all.

One more thing I and that angel native did. We reversed the trick on non-English speakers. We make them suspect our topic of conversation, which made them self-conscious. We had a furious laugh before and after the act. Cheers to LingoDiction!

1 comment:

  1. Caira,
    You have hit the bulls eye here. Though I would still be able to pronounce Paradeplatz but can't disagree on the human nature - if someone is talking in a language not known to you and looks at you just for once 99 of 100 times I feel I am the topic of discussion or rather criticism. Though after hundreds of failed attempts and skeptical looks you resign to the fact that this will always be so.
    But travelers should watch for such disturbing signs when asking for directions from bystanders and passers by because either they are themselves confused and will waste your time or they may send you in totally opposite direction. Better be safe than sorry.