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a journey between language and culture

  • Writer's picturePauline Ninck Blok

That's what I said, you fool!

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

Translating or interpreting is not just simply changing words from one language to another, it is so much more. It is trying to grasp the intentions of the writer or speaker, the subtle meanings of their words or expressions, but also to understand where they're coming from and that we all come from different backgrounds and cultures resulting in different habits and manners.

Wherever you travel in the world, you are bound to find local businesses run by foreigners. Now, visiting a different country is one thing, but to live and work there is another altogether. Some will find it agrees with them more than the way of life and doing business in their home country while others may find it difficult at times to deal with these aspects that differ from how things are done in their home country in addition to the possible linguistic challenges working abroad might pose.

Only the other day, I was waiting in line behind an Italian lady at the cash register of a shop run by a Chinese lady. The Italian lady placed the belt she intended to buy on the counter....

"You don't have one of those machines to punch holes in it?" She said.

Chinese lady: "Yes"

Italian lady: "Oh, good so you can punch extra holes in it?"

Chinese lady: "No"

Italian lady: "But you just said you could"

Chinese lady: "No"

Italian lady: "Oh so you don't have one of those machines?"

Chinese lady: "Yes"

Italian lady: "So you can punch holes in the belt?"

Chinese lady: "No"

They turned to me, in despair, each wondering whether the other was taking the mick and probably thinking to themselves "Why won't you listen to me, you fool!"

I have decided to dedicate my next few blogs to some of the foreign locals here in Umbria who have been slightly more successful in communicating with their clients, or so it seems........but also to everyday situations foreigners might encounter in Italy and their occasional struggles or awe when dealing with Italians.........

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