Thursday, April 10, 2008

I know what I mean...do you?


Ok, enough with Literature. I guess that with my last posts I managed to scare away even my one reader...gosh! I'm hopeless, aren't I? I will stay in the language field and talk a littl ebit of my experience in English as a foreign language.

First of all, I have to say that with the status of my identity, being considered a foreigner is not really new to me. Having people making fun of my accent, then, is just something I got used to. As well as having people asking me: where are you from? This happens on a regular basis here, but it also happened all the time in Brazil.

Now, of course, my English is not as good as my Portuguese. I`m not saying I have an excellent Portuguese, but my English is definitely far below. When I first got here, my English wasn't as good as it is now, and when I started speaking to people, specially on the phone, I experienced some huge problems. With the Americans it is pretty fine...not always, but most of the times. When I speak too other nationalities, though, i`m never sure they understand me and I`m not sure I understand what they mean. I find myself asking repetitively the same thing just to make sure I got it right. Sometimes it's because I really don't understand what they are saying - this happens a lot ith an Autralian friend of mine -; most of the times, though, I do understand the words, but I don`t understand the meaning these words are trying to convey. I do understand the literal meaning, but it is hard to understand the intention that underlies (and is part of) the meaning. I believe part of this difficulty is due to the cultural factor. Different cultures convey meanings, and specially intentions, in different ways. When I hear a Thai speaking English in the US, there are too many cultures involved: my country`s, the American and the Thai. In deciphering the intention, my brain doesn't know to what culture it should refer to. As a result of this insecurity, I end up trying to make sure my interpretation is the right one, and there`s no other way but asking the speaker himself.
I was thinking aout this problem yesterday, when I was talking to a girl from South Africa. She was trying to tell me something, but I wouldn`t understand her. Looking at my puzzled face, she asked me: "do you understand what I`m saying?" and I innocently told her the truth: "No, I don`t". Then, she came up with something totally unexpected: "I know what I'm saying". It was funny, because before I could realize it, I had already answered her: "Good for you!". She`s right, though...things do always make sense in our mind. However, in order to uild up a meaningful and pleasant conversation, we have to ear in mind that those who listen to us have access to our words and not to our heads. It is important, then, to pay attention to our language and use it wisely.

4 comments:

Emmanuele said...

Well, the things that you said sometimes happens to me too...but when i'm talking to Italians..ehhehe...the cultural factor is relevant between two people of the same country too..well, sure less than between people of different countries..do u agree?

However, your experience is a great training for knowing other cultures..this could help you if you want to trip all over the world...ehehhe...i think i'll take advantage of these skills that built up... :D

Emmanuele said...

doh!! "that YOU built up"...i haven't take coffee yet... :/

adry mendes said...

I do agree that misunderstandings happen all the time. It just seems to me that here I`m facing one misunderstanding after another...
Well, about my skills, I don`t know if I`mm being successful at all in my social skills. I actually would say I`m not being successful at all...:/

Rômulo said...

Querida Adry,

Inúmeros foram os sentimentos que tomaram conta de mim ao ler o seu texto. Todos de ordem pessoal. :) Aos poucos, vou conseguindo explicitá-los pra vc (em outros momentos e lugares). Por aqui, e por enquanto, basta dizer que me toca demais, e de maneiras diferentes, tanto o conteúdo quanto a forma com que você o escreveu.

Acho sempre muito bom ouvir os seus sentimentos sobre o seu ser brasileira. Sobre como você se sente em relação a isso. Apesar de o seu texto ser basicamente sobre a sua experiência com o inglês e as culturas correlatas, pude ir um pouco além e associá-los a vivências nossas e a impressões que eu já tenho sobre você. E assim saber mais um pouco sobre esse seu ponto de vista, ou seja, sobre como você se sente com relação à sua condição. No mais, adry, desvendar você... descobrir o ser Adriana é sempre um grande prazer e se torna cada vez mais uma necessidade pra mim.

Non posso omettere un commento diciamo... di ordine tecnica. :P Sono d´accordo con voi. Sappiamo (e lo sai bene) che l´intenzione comunicativa (ossia quello che si vuole dire) è davvero fodamentale nella comunicazione. E per capirlo, per construire il significato di quello che si ascolta (o che si produce), la dimensione culturale è importantissima. Non è difficile immaginare le difficoltà che attraversi e la "ginnastica mentale" che stai faccendo. :) Sì... ordinare significati tra almeno tre sistemi culturali divversi... non sarà un compito così facile. Ma sei molto brava, comunque. :)

saudades,
A. V.
T Rômulo

Ps. Que estranha a reação da sua amiga, heim? Não gostei não, sabia?