You’re used to find only posts related to language learning in this blog, but I had to share this. It’s a good story, and in a strange way, it relates to languages. How? Read on.
This was the view from our room.
Back in 2004, I was an exchange student at National University of Singapore. I had 5 months to study business in Singapore, and get to see Asia. Like for most exchange students, the latter was my priority. So when my University friend came to see me, we took off for a few days to Tioman Island.
Now, I loved Tioman, but it was a bit too simple for my friend. He’s since become a bit more humble, but at that time he just loved to stay in 5-star hotels. So he called a few hotels in KL and found a good last-minute rate at the JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur. I think we paid about a hundred dollars a night.
That same day, we were on the bus to K.L.
What if you were travelling in a foreign country and you found this very attractive person; you approach her and introduce yourself, best foot forward. And then, a blank stare. She didn’t even understand any word you said!
I have often wondered, if it was even remotely possible, for two people speaking completely different languages, to fall in love and be together. See, it’s easy to adjust to say, a Filipina and an American. That’s easy. A Filipina and a Japanese is manageable. But what if it’s a German and a Thai? What if both only know one language? Who would learn what? Would they both learn something new? Something common? What would they teach their kids? Are love and language so closely intertwined that one cannot happen without the other?
So many ways to communicate – without words!
As “language people”, we sometimes place all our faith in the four mainstays of language exams – reading, writing, listening and speaking.
If you’ve ever rocked up in a town where you don’t speak the lingo and they don’t speak yours, you will have probably seen first-hand that there is a lot more to communication than these four convenient IELTS test sections. This is where reality meets theory and teaches it a bit of a lesson!
How exactly do you overcome the language barriers and get your message across?
Boy, has the world of travel changed since I backpacked my way around south-east Asia for six months in 1990!
I set out then, as a twenty-two year old, with already quite a bit of travel under my belt, so I landed in Bangkok with confidence, if a little jaded, after a twenty-two-hour flight from London via Moscow with Aeroflot; hey…it was the cheapest ticket available! Every penny counted back then and I was hoping to make my trip last as long as possible. I was thinking about some of the differences between travel then and nowadays, as I see quite a few backpackers passing through the town of Hua Hin, Thailand, where I have lived for the past nine years.
I own an Internet café in the centre of Hua Hin (where I am writing this from) and they often come in to check mail and upload photographs to their Facebook page, download music to their iPods or fill in their online travel journals so their friends can see where they are and what they’re doing; sometimes they Skype back home.
Whoa…just a cotton-picking minute!!! Email? Upload photos? Download music? Skype and Facebook?
Right there we have five huge differences to when I was backpacking, and that’s without even thinking!