Friday, July 17, 2009

A word about language…

Isn’t it funny how we speak our own language so well, we don’t need to speak it correctly to be understood?

If someone asks us a yes-or-no question, how often do we actually begin our answers with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’? I’m smacking my head against the wall often enough these days, but little by little, my Italian is improving in my role as Ospitaliera in magical Monteriggioni. A pilgrim or two comes through each night, generally, though equally from France, Germany and Italy so far. Consequently, the language varies within those in my skill sets. Italian still lags, dramatically, but I can get through dinner conversation adequately.

I’ve concluded though, if we all just put enough thought into an answer to begin our diatribes with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, the world of tourists and foreigners would run much more smoothly.

I’ve been right there with the next guy:
‘Is this the train to Siena?’ [how easy it is to respond ‘yes’ or ‘no’]

‘Sure thing, you bet’ [not words on the beginners vocabulary list, now, is it?]

From one English speaker to another, this exchange is absolutely clear, but by simply adding ‘yes’ to the beginning of the sentence, to the beginner English speaker, it does no harm and yet is so much more widely understood [Yes, followed by unintelligible babble the asker hopes is meaningless.] ‘Yes’ and ‘no’ are pretty high on the list of words understood in another language.

Of course, my difficulty is not in expressing English clearly. This same thing happens in Italian. French, German, and Spanish from my experience, too.

Spread the word and spread some happiness: when dealing with someone who clearly doesn’t know the language well, please, answer a yes-or-no question with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Ja/Nein, Oui/Non, Si/No, Da/Nyet, etc…

(No need to shout, either, it really doesn’t help.)
(And if your experience tells you that most of the world speaks English, you’ve limited yourself to touristic places. Most of the world does not speak English. And that’s how it should be.)

1 comment:

Amawalker said...

A hospitalera in Monteriggione?? Now there's pilgrim progress for you! When I walked the VF in 2006 there were no peregrino albergues besides a couple around the Chisa pass.
Not all the caminos are overcrowded.
I walked the Aragones a few weeks ago and only met a few pilgrims. I also walked the Camino Ingles to Santiago a week later and did not see one other pilgrim, not even a cyclist. Two of us stayed in an albergue that sleeps 25 pilgrims.
There are still quiet routes to walk in Spain.