Tuesday, March 6, 2012

language barriers

As you saw from my last post, I am not a linguist.  Having said that, being here for only a week has forced me to think like an octolingual (I just made that up).  On one hand my brain is working hard to understand and soak in all the languages that I am being exposed to.  On the contrary, I am forced to compose english sentences like a child would so that people can attempt to understand what I am saying.  

On my team we have two girls from Cameroon (who speak an African version of French), a Brasillian, a Jamaican, a Swede and a lot of Russians. Now, when I first made the decision that I would indeed be going to Russia, I immediately set out for some Russian language books.  But, upon seeing that their language looks like the common state college's fraternity and sorority row names all squashed into one long word, I realized that I was probably not going to be able to learn Russian. It is quite the daunting task to even hear when someone is saying hello to me (hello is pronounced... pree-VEE-et) much less understand a lesson in soccer.  

We Americans think that the rest of the world knows English...that assumption is indeed false.  English is the vast minority here.  The Jamaican and Swedish girls speak English broken by heavy accents. My main communication forms have become charades, sentences from Jenny the Penny (my favorite children's book), or google translate. None of which are very efficient. So, if, at the end of the time I spend here, my writing seems like that of a kindergartner, you all know why.  Just be patient with me as I re-learn english.  (I just realized that that is the 6th reason why I need to write this blog... I need to keep my english up).  

Now that you understand the language barriers I face, let me paint you the picture of how I first discovered when the coaches are talking to me during practice...  It was the second day and 4th practice... we had just finished our hour of one touch passing. My groins were feeling a bit fatigued from the repetition of the passing motion but I was feeling good about my accurate passing ratio.  Everyone was speaking their different languages and I was standing to the side smiling to myself because, as I said I was happy with my passing ratio.  

Let me interject for a second and give you a bit of background information...the coaches talk loud all the time.  It is hard to tell if they are yelling or speaking in their inside voices because they have the same volume and tone level all the time. 

So, during this practice, as I was feeling good about myself, one of the coaches was speaking (in what I believed to have been his inside voice).  He said "Haaroash, shelsheem za voot despachashte va shasiim mne valshastieshta zaneela." After which, he looked in my direction.  The one word I was able to pick out of this sentence was the first, "haaroash" which means "good", so I did not think much about it.  But then everyone turned to look in my direction.  So my smile quickly faded and my eyes darted amongst my team members to see if anyone could offer me some help, none was found.  The coach again said some words, this time with no "haaroash"... this concerned me.  

He was starting a brisk walk towards me with his hands waving and pointing in my direction, again saying words I did not understand "zaneela shalsheem va shasiim".  I looked behind me to the right, no one was there... behind me to the left, no one...then back at him. I thought "oooo, he is getting awfully close and this is definitely not his inside voice." My translator saw what was happening and started to run from the other side of the field, this confirmed that he was in fact yelling at me. He said a lot of things most of which I cant spell nor try to translate... but one that I kept hearing was "zaneela". Finally my translator got there and the coach turned to her to talk.  She started laughing and said "no, no, no, DAN-ee-elle (remember to say all of ziss shtuff in a Rudssian akscent)."  He started laughing too and repeated it as she had sounded it out... "DAN-ee-elle." They both looked at me and he said "DAN-ee-elle".  I looked at my translator and she said "he has been trying to get your attention by calling your name...'zaneela' but you were not responding...and so he got angry."  I thought, "thats a funny thing to get angry at?"...apparently misunderstandings are not a joking matter.
Anyways, the story ends that everyone now calls me "zaneela" or "american" (which is pronounced like... am-ed-heee-con).  Thats about as much as my octolingual ears have picked up on. I am learning though and will continue to give you language lessons as this goes.  Thank you (in Turkish... turd-e-surd ee-deer-um) for your time and following of my blog!





  1. Oh Zaneela...you make me laugh out loud! I can't even imagine trying to navigate the rivers of communication you're faced with. Maybe learn to sign LOL!

  2. I can't stop.laughing....a big ol belly laugh! Its like u r in a movie! Such a story! The visual of charades makes my side hurt from giggling! You have such a beautiful smile...consider that ur public relations! Love u bunches!