“I’d also like to read about your life and thoughts in general,” says Erika.
“Are you able to say exactly what you want from others when you write?” asks Mapelba on her blog. “Money? How much? A compliment? What would that compliment be?”
“I want to be understood,” I reply. “I want people to stop judging me by their interpretation of what they see and discover the reality behind it. I want money, too. And compliments. But most of all I want to be understood.”
So here is an excerpt from my life. Although I’m worried you won’t understand it.
I have lived in Israel for most of my life, but I arrived as an adult. I’ve acquired a fairly good grasp of the language, but my accent tells all but a few other non-native speakers that my native tongue is English, even if they assume that I come from the US.
The other day I had to make a phone call. And here’s the first thing you probably won’t understand: phone calls are problematic. I worry about them beforehand, wonder whether I could substitute an email. Sometimes they turn out to be OK, other times they don’t.
Anyway, I phoned, said what I had to say and listened to the reply. Everything was going fine until I requested clarification about something he’d said. It wasn’t that I hadn’t understood any word of his Hebrew, just that I wanted him to explain something further. At this point he, a native Hebrew speaker, switched to English. I listened with mounting anger and kept quiet. The only thing I said was “all right” (in Hebrew). I wanted to tell him to stop talking in English, but didn’t think I could manage that without sounding angry, and that wouldn’t be fair to him because he obviously thought he was helping me.
This scenario has happened to me many times. Each time it infuriates me. I want to shout at the person who does this to me, “Just because I’m quiet, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid!” But it wouldn’t be appropriate.
So there it is. My life and thoughts. Does anyone understand?
9 replies on “Just a Phone Call”
This happens very often to me. I ignore them. I answer in Hebrew again and again and again and, more often than not, they switch back to Hebrew. Once, I got up the courage and said to a woman, “please don’t do that.”
She answered, “I was just trying to help you.”
And I said, “I know, I appreciate it…but if you really want to help me, speak to me in Hebrew. If I make a mistake, correct it. If you don’t understand, ask me to explain again…just do it in Hebrew. If I wanted to speak English, I would have asked you to speak English or I would have stayed in America.”
She was so positive, I’ve since done that a few more times. Keep speaking Hebrew – they really are trying to help.
Good for you, Paula! I don’t think I’m capable of doing that without sounding angry.
I teach English as second language–and this happens to my students all the time. They hate using the phone. Sometimes I have students make phone calls for practice, and I had a Korean student cry. And all she had to do was call a cafe and ask their hours. And for every person who wants to keep speaking the language, someone else will be relieved to give up.
Sometimes I think we can be understood only in bits and pieces, catch as catch can.
If I spoke more, they’d realise I don’t have a problem with the language. That’s the frustrating part, for me.
I certainly share your aversion to the phone – and there’s no language complication to justify it.
If you are angry you should sound angry, nothing inappropriate about that. Even if he was trying to help, just tell him you meant a more detailed explanation, not a translation. Probably easier said than done. BTW I also hate making ‘official’ phone calls, not related to language issues at all.
Clever people don’t speak much. Stupid people do.
You don’t know what I sound like when I’m angry. It’s never appropriate.
I realize this blog post was written over 5 years ago–but.:-)
Yes. Both points. I avoid the phone if humanly possible–texting, messaging, and the ability to do many things via web was a form of deliverance for me.
I also cannot abide when Israelis speak to me in English, unless their English is perfect.
One of the reasons is that, in many situations, I am more confident in Hebrew.
Thanks for this, Cara. I think I’ll write another post about language woes this week.