Ok, I just HAD to put my nose into it: "She needs Claritin."
A few minutes later, the clerk approached me and thanked me saying, "I had no idea what she was saying; I was getting ready to take her to the Glad Trash Bags."
Aurgh! I can handle stupidity in a person until it seems voluntary. So, I slapped her across the face and screamed "Glad Trash Bags??!! Were you even TRYING? Can you not even SOUND OUT an accented word?"
In my mind.
I'm always amazed when Americans expect everyone else in the whole world to learn OUR language, thus saving us the hassle of learning jackshit, and then look down their noses at accented English or a foreign language.
Soon after the Claritin incident, I got an e-mail from my friend Ilaiy, who grew up in Bangalore, India. A frustrating day at work, and he wanted my honest opinion:
....[D]o I sound that bad that people cannot understand what I am saying?
Apparently he'd been explaining something at work, and after he was allll finished, the two guys he was talking to laughed at him and said, "we have no idea what you just said."
Ilaiy was brought up speaking English. He speaks 5 languages fluently, and understands 2 more. He received his Master's degree in the United States. He is clearly not lacking in vocabulary. There's the occasional transposition of V's and W's which makes the word "Volvo" pretty amusing, but his English is otherwise clear and understandable.
So, what is it, he wants to know, that makes some people "choose" to misunderstand him?
What do I say? How can two coworkers become so paralyzed with "Ve" over "We" that they toss up their hands and declare themselves completely in the dark? How can "Claritin" become "Glad Trash Bags"?
I tell him that we weren't introduced to other languages as children. Nor other sounds for letters, other than the ones we make.
I tell him that people are intimidated by others that know more than they do.
I tell him that people fear looking stupid.
I tell him we're lazy; memorizing an entire dictionary full of words in another language seems overwhelming.
I advise him to politely ask, when it happens again, "Where did I lose you?" or "What didn't you understand?"
Maybe it will be a gentle nudge to the paralyzed in question to listen more carefully. We could all stand to do a bit of that.
As for me, I have a basic understanding of a second language, and I don't use it, and I'm more than a little ashamed of it. SO, I've pulled out my spanish libros and am brushing up on my vocabulario. I'm looking into refresher courses in the community. Our spanish-speaking population grows here, and they need help, baby! Our hospitals need translators. There's only one insurance store in our town that has spanish speaking agents. Only one car dealership.
By the way, the girl at Walgreen's ended up in front of me in the checkout line.
She purchased Benadryl.