Yesterday, while driving home from afternoon activities we all had a good laugh while dear daughter was ordering our pizza for dinner.
It’s not as if ordering pizza for our household is an easy task to begin with. All five of us each wanting our own pizza, ‘made to measure’ if you know what I mean. Which would be difficult under ordinary circumstances. When you’re trying to do so over the telephone with someone who speaks English as a second language, it is always a challenge.
Now don’t get me wrong. I give all the people living here full credit as it has become quite apparent to me that we come from one of the few countries whose majority of citizens only speak one language. Even though we are a country with two official languages (English and French). Most other people around the world know two at minimum. I am amazed at all the people who speak 3, 4, 5 or even 6, or 7 languages!
We feel quite ashamed really, when people apologize for what they feel are their poor English language skills. Quite readily we reply “There is no need to apologize. You speak English much better than I can speak Arabic, or French, or German, or Spanish, or Nepali, or Tagalog, or Hindi, or Dutch, …” and on and on the list goes.
But back to the story. Dear daughter completed the order and had it repeated back satisfactorily by the employee over the phone.
Youngest son’s friend who was with us then commented on how our daughter had used the wrong pronunciation of the word tomato. Being from England he said it should be pronounced “tomato” with a short a or ‘ah’ sound, whereas we say tomato with a long a, or ‘eh’ sound. (Must be a Canadian thing – eh?)
He then went on to give an example of being back in England recently and having a conversation with someone. He was speaking as he normally would here where you try to use the least amount of words possible to get the meaning across, all … pronounced …. very…. slowly and …. carefully…. The person to whom he was speaking finally stopped and asked if he figured he was an idiot or something and couldn’t understand what was being said.
It’s another example of adapting to your surroundings. The more words, the more complicated. Keep it short, precise, simple and you might just understand each other.
To confuse the issue further, even when you think you’re speaking the same language sometimes you’re not at all. Like what happens when you have a British friend that asks you (me, a Canadian gal) a few simple questions.
Where did you buy your new trainers from? If you’re planning to stop in at the chemist to would you mind picking up some plasters for me? While at the grocery store could you also collect some aubergine, mangetout and perhaps a packet or two of crisps and biscuits for me?
How the heck do you handle these questions? Are we speaking the same language?
It took some time but after 11 years here I usually manage most ‘translations’ fairly accurately. Again, you learn as best you can to navigate through the differences in language in hopes of understanding each other a little better.
Thankfully we recieved the five pizzas just as we ordered them: one with fresh tomato, one without olives, one with less cheese and two just as they’re meant to be without any special alterations!