March 26, 2013

The 6 Annoying People You Meet When You Don't Speak the Native Language

It has officially been a year that I have lived here in Brazil, and one universal truth that I have found is that people are completely clueless on how to treat someone that can't speak your language.  I am sure I have been each of the 6 annoying people at some point in my life.  I don't think that a single one of the "6 annoying people" is a bad person, intends to be an asshole, or doesn't like me because I am foreign.  On the contrary, I think that people are generally truly interested in making me feel more comfortable, but chances are they are doing it wrong.  It is probably nearly impossible to treat someone that cannot speak your language exactly the same as you would someone that does, so who can blame them?  So here we go, the 6 annoying people you meet when you don't speak the native language (and sometimes just when you have an accent.)

1. The Sympathetic

The sympathetic is usually a person that knows and loves your country or culture and feels openly sympathetic that you "had" to leave.  Note: Unless human-trafficked into your country, the person you are speaking to chose to be in your country.  I get this a lot from people who do a lot of travelling to the United States and who would very much prefer to live there.  They ask questions like, "Why would you move here?" and "Don't you miss your the U.S.?" and you have to answer in the most positive way possible to curb their pity.  The hardest part about being around this person is that occasionally you ask yourself these questions.  "Why the hell would I move here?  Am I crazy?"  But you can't just answer, "I really have no idea, probably because I'm an idiot," because that will make you look ungrateful and confuse them.  What they want to hear is all of the things that you love about their country and what makes it better than your country and how extremely happy you are that you made the decision to live in a place where you are currently being pitied for moving to.  It can be difficult. 

2. The Ignorer

This is the person that ignores your existence.  Most likely the reason is that he or she cannot speak a word of English and feels complete uncomfortable about they fact that they have to communicate with you like a caveman.  This is actually one of my favorite of the 6 people because I can freely stare that them while I try to decifer what they are saying and not only do they never look in my direction, but even better, they never ask me questions.  As a foreigner that doesn't speak Portuguese I live in an almost constant dread of being asked something.  I guess this should be getting better since I actually understand the question about 75% of the time now, but

3. The Learners

This is probably one of my favorite people that I meet in Brazil, because they are a rarity and they make me think of all of the times that I have seen this from the flip-side in America (Americans are notorious learners.)  The learner is the person that insists on speaking English with you, regardless of their knowledge of it.  They are a rare commodity because most people have too much pride or self-respect to put their weak understanding of the English language out in the open.  They often start a conversation by saying “I speak English too!” and then immediately spout off the three sentences that they know “The book is on the table,” “Where is the bathroom,” “I love you.”  Sound familiar Americans?  The learner is also generally very keen on having something in common with you.  They will say things like “You are from California?  My sister’s husband’s cousin went to Disney World once!  Oh, that’s in Florida?  Well, it’s kind of close right?”  Although I have met quite a few learners here in Brazil, I think that Americans have to be the worst.  I have witnessed so many conversations (generally with Europeans) that start: “Oh, you’re from –insert European nationality here–?  Me too!  My great-great-great grandfather came from there!”   We are also horrible with geography leading to us assuming that that guy from Poland probably speaks Russian because it’s close right?

4. The Deniers

These are the worst, but probably the most necessary for actually learning the language.  These people completely deny the fact that you are foreigner and believe that if they talk at you enough that you will eventually understand them through osmosis.  I have an internal anxiety attack every time I am around a denier because I know that there is only a limited time that I can nod and smile before they ask a question and I have to bashfully admit that I haven’t understood a word that has come out of their mouth for the past 20 minutes.  The deniers are occasionally just people that don’t realize that you don’t, in fact, understand the language, and are usually old men or women that like to talk to strangers at bus stops, in grocery stores, and in waiting rooms.  I generally try to avoid outing myself at any cost, because I truly hate the disappointed look on old people faces. 

5. The Babiers
Babiers are the people that treat you as though, since you are foreign and you don’t know the language, you must be treated as a child would be treated.  They openly speak about you though you are not in the room saying things like “I bet she is hungry, I’ll offer her some crackers” while looking in your direction and then proceeding to offer you snacks or drinks every 10 minutes to make you as comfortable as possible.  I imagine this is what it will be like to be in a convalescent home and I will tell you right now, you can kill me before that happens.   While a babier’s intentions are always kind-hearted and honest, it is extremely annoying to be treated like this when your intelligence is higher than that of an infant.
6. The Superiors
Similar to a babier in that they will treat you like you have a less than standard IQ, the superiors assume that you are just an adult idiot.  These are the people who will try to take advantage of your limited understanding for their benefit.  They speak down to you, make you try to say big words like a trained monkey, and generally make you feel like a piece of shit without intending it what-so-ever.  It can be hard to differentiate the lack of understanding due to a language barrier and the lack of understanding due to stupidity, especially for someone that hasn’t spent much time around foreign people.  Kids are natural “superiors” and find the fact that you can’t understand anything hilarious and something to exploit, but many adults easily fit into this category from time to time. 
So next time you meet someone that doesn’t speak you language perfectly, keep in mind that knowing how to communicate at all in another language is probably more than you can say for yourself...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive