Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Difficulty Of Speaking Slowly And Simply

It is a fact that only people who are highly educated and/or highly sensitive to language can speak slowly and use only simple language. Other people always speak in their normal manner, in any situation, and confronted with someone who fails to understand them all they can think to do is speak more loudly.

I confront this problem all the time, especially people of the “other” type.

In Sakon Nakorn on Thursday, I got a call from the guy who would pick me up and drive me to my class on Saturday. I knew what the call was about, because I heard the words for “pick-up” and “teach.” Beyond that I didn’t understand a word the guy said. He could understand me pretty well, and he got frustrated because I seemed to be asking the same simple questions over and over.

I wanted him to say, slowly, “I will pick you up on Saturday at 7:00 am,” which I could have understood very well, but what he said was more like:

“so, I’ll swing by the hotel about an hour before your class, I might be a little late, I have to pick up another professor at the airport, but we’ve got plenty of time, you’d be surprised, the road is pretty good and on Saturday there won’t be much traffic, so maybe 7:30, but don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to eat before class.”

And he said it very, very fast.

I must have asked him twenty times to speak slowly and use simple words, but the response was always a hurricane of vernacular. Even if I asked, in painfully slow, simple Thai, “you pick me up what day?” he would respond in volumes instead of just saying, “Saturday.” Finally we got there, and I repeated, for clarity, “So, you will pick me up on Saturday, at 7:00 o’clock, right?” He answered like, duh! that’s what I’ve been saying for ten minutes!

Some people are just unreasonable.

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