It always takes me a bit to fully understand people who speak with an accent as a result of their birth in another country. It’s usually those for whom English is a second language but those from another country whose first language is English can pose a challenge for me too.
I love British accents, but I find myself turning up the volume on the TV when I watch something like “Downton Abbey” or “Grantchester” on PBS or even the American-made “Elementary” whose leading character is reportedly British. It’s not that the volume helps me hear better, but it tends to shut out other distractions in the room so that I can concentrate on what I’m hearing. It doesn’t take me long as I get into the rhythm of the speech patterns and then, by Jove, I’ve got it.
I have a dear friend who is Korean by birth. When we lived in the same community and saw one another regularly, I was very used to her accent and seldom had to ask her to repeat what she was saying. I do recall once that she was expressing some sadness about a person in town. I heard her say, “I think he’s walking in a long cloud.” I asked her again and again to repeat herself. Then I figured out that she was actually saying, “wrong crowd” not “long cloud.” I just roared – not at her mispronunciation – but at the unintentional double entendre that was downright accurate. Now we let too many months slip by without seeing and talking with one another and I struggle to understand her when we do get to chat by phone.
Nonetheless, I have always said that the problem is not with the person for whom English is a second language. “Their English is far better than my Korean (Spanish, French, German, Farsi, and, well, you get the idea).” I admire people who have worked to learn another language, especially English, because I am far better off for it.
I ran into a similar situation last week when Terry and I made our somewhat annual trip to Florida for a week. We stayed at a resort and we both decided it was time to try out the amenities of the spa there. Now what I don’t know about spas would fill volumes. Going into one of those places is like speaking a foreign language for me. I was there to get a manicure and pedicure. Terry decided he would get his first-ever massage. Since his appointment started somewhat later than mine, we decided to stop by before we had lunch just to get a feel for the place and what to expect.
The gentleman who greeted us couldn’t have been more cordial. We explained our situation and he began to tell us, with what I believe was a Spanish accent, of the many attributes of the spa and what we might expect when we arrived individually and then departed together. I listened carefully trying my best to remember the Spanish I had been taught in high school and college so that I could understand how he might be pronouncing each English word. Our brief visit was very successful and we departed for lunch and our later appointments.
There was something that he said that was troubling, however. Once outside and walking to the nearby restaurant, I said to Terry, “Why did he keep emphasizing the lactation lounge? Why would we be interested in a lactation lounge?”
I thought Terry was going to double over in laughter. “Not lactation lounge!” he said. “Relaxation lounge!”
Well! That made a whole lot more sense! I knew neither one of us would be interested in lactating and I figured Terry might be embarrassed in a lounge dedicated to that process. I would have been a fish out of water.
At any rate, we both went on to have a very nice afternoon. As I spoke with the nail technician, I discovered that this was a very part-time job for her. She runs a very successful cake decorating business in Kissimmee called Enticing Cake Boutique. But even more interesting, Elaine Duran has been a celebrity chef on the TV show “Cake Wars” and “Cake Boss: Next Great Baker.” She has a newly published book called “You’re Next! Turn Your Disappointment into Destiny.” She’s Latin but if Spanish is her first language, I would never guess it as her English is impeccable. I have no doubt she speaks Spanish fluently.
Yet I digress. I found myself in the Lactation Lounge (a/k/a Relaxation Lounge) twice during my visit. The only thing shocking about it was the occasional robe that was allowed by clients to drape open as they reclined. There was just too much on display in there. In addition, the din that was created by the whispering of female clients wasn’t very relaxing. I did see other men besides Terry come and go. None of them stayed very long and I don’t blame them.
So I learned something to begin to fill my own volumes on spas and what they are about. But the biggest was, perhaps, that spas don’t have a lactation lounge as a matter of course. I won’t worry about that in the future.
“Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’ 5 The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. 6 And the LORD said, ‘Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’ 8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” – Genesis 11:1-9Share here: