ESL at ISTE in San Diego

ESL (or English as a second language) has been a problem for me in San Diego. My Australian strine does not connect well with many US accents. So many times, I am asked ‘pardon’. It was fortunate that when ordering my sandwich at Subway, I had Kathleen Morris with me as she was able to keep interpreting each of my requests into US speech and again interpret that US accent for me!

However, this morning really showed the extent of the problem. I popped into this delightful Italian cafe where the most delectable assortment of cakes, breads and biscuits were displayed in shiny clean glass cabinets. The shop assistant was so friendly and accommodating and in my best Australian voice I asked for a roll with ham, fetta cheese and tomatoes using the Italian name. She immediately got me some baklava. So, I apologetically, said that I wanted the bread roll, to which she asked “do you want to take out” or eat here. (I thought). I said to take away as I wanted it for my lunch. Food is not in high supply at the Convention Centre and long queues form to place orders.

She proceed out the back and soon returned without my roll. Assuming it was being wrapped for me, I soon realised that perhaps they were toasting it. Even more apologetically, I said that I did not want it toasted, but wanted a fresh roll. She very obligingly cancelled the toasting and gave me the correct food. Minutes later, I was on my way to catch the shuttle bus to the conference!

There have been so many misunderstandings etc but good humour always prevails and both sides of the English language are good at that!


6 responses to “ESL at ISTE in San Diego

  1. That is soooooooo funny. We run into that all the time in International Schools. Sometimes the hardest thing about understanding what is going on is what understanding what we are all saying in English. 🙂 You go, girl…

    • Hey Heather, thanks for your comment. I often wonder how you get on in International Schools. I guess the misunderstandings occur between both students and staff! It would be a great cultural experience to be forced to learn how to communicate with all and a great life skill to help in this flattening world of ours.

  2. Oh Anne, I’m glad you ended up up with what you wanted in the end. I did chuckle while reading your post. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

    • Hi Penny, I have giggled my way through so many similar circumstances. If you have time read my reply to Veronica’s comment above! I often got blank looks or ‘yes’ to many of my comments or questions, and I knew immediately that I had to repeat even more slowly so that I got an appropriate response!

  3. Your English experience in the States reminds me so much of what one of our Malaysian writers, Lee Su Kim, said in her book ‘A Nyonya in Texas’ when she was asked, ”For here or to go, Mam?’ by the cashier in a fast food restaurant when placing an order. As related by Lee herself, at first she thought that the cashier wanted to know where she was going!! In Sociolinguistics terms, this is indeed a classic example of understanding how English is used or spoken could be problematic not only for non-native speakers but also for those who are native speakers themselves i.e. the inner circle of the English speaking world. Thanks Anne, for sharing this hilarious experience with us!!

    • Thanks Veronica, your comment made me laugh! I had many more examples of misunderstanding. Another was when I was running really late for a session with Steve Hargadon in 6E. I asked one of the ‘help’ people where 6E was and was promptly sent to 6A, so I had to go back in my best Australian voice and say ‘a’ for apple to the help person and finally found the 6E in a separate wing of the convention centre! There was so many pardons, and ‘could you repeat’ and also blank looks when there was misunderstanding of the accent. But, that makes travel all the more interesting and memorable.

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