Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Dimly Lit

Actual conversation just two hours ago between myself and the "girl behind the counter" at Brothers' Burger...

GBC: Good afternoon sir.

Me: I'll have the fish sandwich...and onion rings. You have onion rings today?

GBC: Yes sir. And your drink, sir?

Me: A Coke.

GBC: Coke in can?

Me: Yes.

GBC: OK sir, I'll repeat your order: That's one fish sandwich, french fries...

Me: No, onion rings.

GBC: ...onion rings and coke in can.

Me: Yes.

GBC: And your name, sir?

Me: Jay.

GBC: Jake?

Me: No, Jay.

GBC: James?

Me: (slowly) No, Jay. Like the tenth letter in the alphabet.

GBC: ...(puzzled look on her face)...Jame?

Me: (Now in my English as a Second Language teacher speed and tone of voice.) Jay. Just like in the alphabet. Just..one..letter. Letter J.

GBC writes J-a-n-e, not really questioning the obvious gender discrepancy. After all, there are many people here with names like Precious, Dingdong, and Luv. Not to mention the contracting of two names of opposing gender relation to create a whole new one, much like the media is referring to Bill and Hilary Clinton as "Billary" now.

Me: No. Just the tenth..letter..of..the..alphabet! A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I- J!

GBC: (Pointing to what she had written.) Yes.

Me: No. J! OK, or J - A - Y.

She did finally write that down.

Obviously she isn't the brightest light on her family's Christmas tree, but she isn't that much different from many Americans. Don't go thinking because I'm from the US that I'm not going to trash the severe deficiencies in reading, writing, and listening skills of Americans while I'm on such a topic!

For the purposes of this blog entry, I once had the fortune (*ahem*) to work with someone who was a bulb of similar wattage to the girl above.

He was on the telephone and having some trouble understanding what the man on the other end of the line was saying. Because he knew I was teaching English as a Second Language (yes, I really did) he wanted me to take the call. Apparently, because I had no trouble dealing with twenty-five students from eight nationalities in one class at a time, he expected me to be able to understand whatever accent or linguistic background was thrown at me.

So he asks me: Uh, Jay...uh...there's a guy on the line here...and he's having a tough time with English. I can't understand what he's trying to say and wonder if maybe you can help out here.

I agreed to take the call. When I picked up the phone the voice on the other end of the line was speaking in perfect English.

Not perfect American, perfect English!

For all I knew it was Prince Charles himself.

I felt my language, vocabulary, and pronunciation abilities drifting away in the comparison between us.

"Having a tough time with English?!", I yelled at my co-worker after finishing the call. "He is English!"

I think I might leave my gripes about spelling, grammar, and the use of punctuation for another post, unless I choose to just send that off to a publisher...'cause it's gonna be a long one, folks!

Meanwhile, until the next post: Take note of how brightly the bulbs around you shine. And remember, it takes 100 watts to read well.


Edik said...

sad incident but funny. we also ordered a latte at starbucks in cebu and the GBC ask what name should be put in the order. my friend told her Oswald. when someone called Coswald we were shocked to know GBC heard it differently. and we are no foreigners with a different accent. strange indeed.

MOM said...

Sorry about the name. I knew it could cause a problem but it was a leftover from your grandmother. You know the story.

ellen said...

It's weird that the GBC had a difficult time with your name since Jay is a pretty common name in the Philippines. Heck, we've got actors with that name!

Anyhoo, that bit about your co-worker cracked me up. "Having trouble with English? He IS English!" Hahaha!