The Great Joys of Language Barriers…

Has this ever happened to you?

Oh yes, why yes it has, hasn't it?

I am not even kidding, this seriously happens to me at least five or six times a day.  No, I’m not deaf or anything, I just can’t understand what the h anyone is saying around here.  In Grenada, the official language is English, however every day language is laced with French words and the local dialect (similar to Creole) or Patois.  It’s pretty typical for me to get about 30% of what the local Grenadian’s are saying to me, and the other 70% is a total bust.  I usually just end up smiling and nodding, and saying my default line which is, “Wow, that’s crazy.”  <–On a side note, I want to say that this is not intentionally my default line, for instance, I don’t say it on purpose, but I have noticed that I say this whenever I don’t know what else to say.  For instance, if I’m making uncomfortable small talk, and someone says something like, “Wow it’s so hot out today, eh?”  I’ll respond with my uj (usual) “Wow, that’s crazy,” because what the (bleep) else is there to say to that anyway?!

Matt (husband) is even worse with making sense of the language here, but that might also be because he doesn’t exactly get out much <–This due to being the hard-working med student that he is no doubt.  Anyway, so when we go out to dinner on the rare occasion, maybe 2 or 3 times a semester at the most, I feel like I am basically a translator.  Have you ever watched a boxing match, when the winner doesn’t speak a lick of English?  You know how it goes, the interviewer asks a question, then the translator relates it back to the boxer, the boxer answers, translator relates answer back to the interviewer, and so on and so forth.  Well, that is basically what I do when we’re out to dinner, except I am also only getting less than half of what the locals are saying too!  Oh Lordy!  So, overall when ordering at a restaurant, best case scenario is that we end up getting sorta kinda what we meant to order, and worst case scenario is, we end up getting fish when we ordered “lambi,” thinking it was going to be a delicious lamb-chop. <–Yeah, that actually happened.  After the fact, we learned that “lambi” is popular local dish around here, but it is not lamb, it’s a type of conch shell-fish.  I guess it was meant to be, though, because I’ve always had a certain affinity for sweet Lamb-Chop herself, even if she does sing the most annoying song that never ends…yes it goes on and on my friends…

Step away from my Lamb Chop, and no one will get hurt...

The funny thing about the locals here, is that when they’re speaking to one another, they speak so softly that I sometimes have to wonder if they’re even talking at all, or if they’re just moving their lips for kicks.  Along with speaking what sounds like almost an entirely different language, they also speak extremely soft.  Well, I guess compared to me, but I’ve been told I sound like my voice is coming out of a loud-speaker at times…so there’s that…but I seriously have no idea how they hear each other!  The other day I was getting turkey from the deli, and I walked up and said confidently, “A pound and a half of the no-salt turkey, sliced very thin, please.”  Since the locals also have a hard time understanding me as well, I usually take it upon myself to project nice and loud/clearly.  It doesn’t help.  They have no idea what I’m saying whatsoever.  I usually end up having to just point to it in the glass cooler, and accept the fact that my special request of “sliced thinly” is just not going to happen today.  Boo.

Please, just once can you slice my turkey thin? Please kind lady?!

As I mentioned before, I’ve witnessed a local Grenadian ordering an array of deli meats and cheeses, speaking in a tone so softly that I couldn’t even hear the woman, and she was standing right next to me.  I had to restrain myself from doing what my late great Grandpa Barkoff would’ve done, which is to declare extremely loudly, “WHAT WAS THAT YOU SAID????!!!!”  I mean, I wouldn’t have proceeded to ask for a senior citizen discount (which is precisely what G-Pa Barkoff would have done) but seriously the tone was so muffled, I thought I might be having a senior moment!  I totally admire that the locals are not straining their vocal chords, but please for the love, I can’t understand what you’re saying double-fold when I can’t hear you, either!

Oh, the great joys of language barriers…they never cease to amaze me.

I guess I need to just accept the fact that I’m going to be…

On a daily basis.

Oh well.  I guess sometimes you have to just make the best of it, eh?

(P.S. Please don’t respond to that with, “Wow, that’s crazy.”)

~The End

Photos courtesy of IMDB and

23 thoughts on “The Great Joys of Language Barriers…

  1. It definitely happens more often than I’d like it to. Just tonight when we went out for dinner, I was given a choice between two things… I was never able to catch what the waiter was saying the second thing was, so I simply settled for the first one. I guess I’d never know what I missed…


  2. Sounds like hard work.

    Haven’t been out of the country for decades, but I have learned a few words here and there of Danish, French, German (I had to translate a German technical manual because the boss was a cheapskate) and some words of Japanese.

    Hope you learn a lot more hun – it’s worth it! 🙂

    Love and hugs!


  3. LOL. I will change my response since I read the rules at the end. But you’re right I think everyone has been there. People are telling me that I will look back on these language barrier experiences and laugh. … thus far still not laughing. Learning a new life as a foreigner can be difficult sometimes. I’ll be diligent and keep trying.
    Thanks for sharing and Bon Chance!

  4. What the above post said! Learning more is really worth it! I live in Japan, speak Japanese but the dialect is so much different from the rest of the Japanese I’m used too! Hmmm I should probably say ‘wow that’s crazy’ to the next Osaka person I have a conversation with on the train! Wonder how that’ll go! 😀

  5. Lol! I live in America and meet wonderful folk all the time, its just a few of them do not speak, well English. I don’t have a default line, but I may opt on the, wow, that’s crazy line. “)

  6. your blog entry? uh, yeah…it was crazy!
    joke! of course! me trying to be clever.
    Still reading your blog faithfully and loving it!
    signed your friend in Metro Detroit…at least I feel like we’re such the friends.
    btw…we still haven’t purchased our Wicked tickets yet.

      • Haha! I really didn’t mean to not say it at all, but for some reason everybody took it that way! Haha!! If it makes you feel any better, I’ve already said “Wow, that’s crazy” about 5 times just today!

  7. Great post!

    Whats’s funny about not understanding others is that I have an Albanian friend that I can understand when we speak in person but when we talk over the phone, I miss out on a few things because I’m embarrassed that I can’t comprehend her well enough to keep the convesation flowing like we do in person.

  8. I couldn’t stop laughing while reading your post!lol!
    Language barriers can put one in so much trouble (i’m a witness…or victim) but in my case, it’s more like when i missed what the person said and don’t really want them to know i wasn’t paying attention, I’ll give them the nod and “oh wow”…

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