Monday, March 14, 2011

Say what?

This is not our yard. It's Mushrif Park in Dubai.
There are times when even our own international English fails us. In the UAE, we often have to deal with people who speak neither English nor Arabic. Usually it turns out ok...somehow. But it often requires making the same phone call five times over the space of two weeks, to confirm important details, or using lots and lots of body language, if you're lucky enough to be conversing in person.

Even then, there's no guarantee that anyone is going to get his or her message across.



Take what happened late last week, for example. Jeremy was planting four plants in the newly grassed backyard when one of the gardeners passed by. The gardener made some motion toward the plants and he and Jeremy talked for a while. There had been some recent confusion about who was responsible for providing flowers and planting them in the backyard, individual residents or the campus gardeners, so I was glad to see that Jeremy was getting it all straightened out.

When Jeremy came inside, I asked him what the gardener said. Jeremy replied (as near as I can remember): "Well, either we're supposed to get our own plants and plant them, or the gardeners will bring some and plant them."

WELL. Glad that's cleared up.

This is the degree of communication difficulty that I'm talking about, a degree so far removed from comprehensibility that you come out of a five-minute discussion having determined absolutely nothing of import.

The story doesn't end there. Yesterday afternoon, we came home and noticed that there were flowers planted in the backyard. We were really happy to realize that this meant that "the gardeners will bring some and plant them" had been the intended message of the other day.

But then, later, the gardener showed up and wanted 83 dhs ($22.50) for the flowers. So what he really had meant was that we could buy flowers and plant them, or he could buy flowers and plant them, and if it was the latter, we'd have to pay him. This message was totally lost on us, as you can see.

Oh well. Not understanding what people are saying to you on a fairly regular basis at least keeps things exciting around here. You never know what is going to happen - or who/what is going to show up at your house/yard - next.

3 comments:

Sarah Familia said...

That's hilarious. I can so relate. The other day my cleaning lady was here and we were totally not communicating. I finally had to call my landlord, and the cleaning lady and I passed the phone back and forth while he translated for us.

Christina LeSueur said...

So, I'm guessing you paid him even though there was that misunderstanding?

Bridget said...

Yeah, I meant to add that of course we paid him. I swear it's enough to make me want to learn Urdu.

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