24 Oct 2013

And Then A Lamp Lesson….

It’s well worth your time popping over to The Slog and take in this possible tipping point.

Also over there, earlier in the week – or was it last week – there were a couple or three posts relating to the struggles involved in learn the language and problems communicating with the natives.

This reminded me of my times struggling to communicate.

Many, many years a long time before now, I rolled up to a rig in Singapore one time which was in the process of preparing to go digging. There was a huge amount of stuff to do prior to towing out to location and at the time the rig had no crew, just shipyard riggers. It came to pass that a Chinaman, walking towards me, politely, in perfect English greeted me with, “Good morning, how are you today?” I excitedly told him I was fine and at that precise moment even finer than fine!
”Oh boy, am I glad to meet you my friend! Okay, here’s what we need to do. Grab the guy who’s driving the crane and….” and continued to motor mouth for a jolly long time excitedly explaining what needed to be done.

At the end of my rabid rabbiting he looked me in the eye and said, politely, in perfect English, “Good morning, how are you today?”

That, in turn, back then, reminded me of a very important lesson taught when I was but a pup, at nautical school, by a retired Royal Navy Signals Officer who was attempting to teach us the finer points of the use of an Aldis Lamp. An Aldis Lamp, simply put, is just a spot light with an on/off trigger used to signal using Morse Code.

This is an Aldis Lamp;                   And this is Morse Code;
IMG_4798a                      morsecodeletters

Sending a message is dead easy once you know Morse. You already know what you want to ‘say’, the words are in you head so converting each word to the relevant dots and dashes is straight-forward and you can hammer out your message like firing a machine gun! “Whoa! Check out how fast I can  transmit then.”

However, the guy at the other end needs to watch, figure out where the breaks are amongst all the short, a dot and long, a dash, flashes are, what that letter is, get the letters to make words and continue doing that ‘till he has something resembling a message.

That’s the preamble over so what was the lesson? The instructors advice? Never transmit faster than you can receive.

After my brief Singapore encounter it became obvious to me that it’s exactly the same with language. My guy already knew what he was going to say to me, had converted it, moved it from his language to the English ‘OUT’ tray and just said it. This gives the receiver the impression the sender has a good commend of English ‘till you fire off a bit so fast the recipient doesn’t have the time to take it in, store it, translate it word by word to his language and move from the ‘FORIGN IN’ tray to his language.  My Singapore fellow probably picked up, ”OboyamIgldtmetyomefried!…” switched off and thought, “Nope. Don’t know that word.”

Never transmit faster than you can receive.

On a final note, the Brit method of shouting at non-English speaking foreigners, in English,  is NOT classed as using a foreign language, okay?

A little language fun can be found here…..

Quote;  David Sedaris. 

“On my fifth trip to France I limited myself to the words and phrases that people actually use. From the dog owners I learned "Lie down," "Shut up," and "Who shit on this carpet?" The couple across the road taught me to ask questions correctly, and the grocer taught me to count. Things began to come together, and I went from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. "Is thems the thoughts of cows?" I'd ask the butcher, pointing to the calves' brains displayed in the front window. "I want me some lamb chop with handles on 'em.”

            Matt Groening.

“I know all those words, but that sentence makes no sense to me.”

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