2.03.2012

Mamas, an Interlude

We need to take a break from porn.  Back-to-back posts can be unhealthy.  In addition to this little story I'm about to tell you, go back and read Eccentric Yoruba's post on the film The Visitor.

So yesterday, I took my mom to get a pedicure at an upscale spot in Houston.  I was trying to get her going to the place where I go, because the place where she was going was totally bullshit.  The place I go is Vietnamese-owned and operated.  Like with my own family, some of the professionals there speak English fluently, and some don't.

More specifically, I speak English fluently.  My mother doesn't.

What's cute was, the female professional assigned to my mom was about her age, and didn't speak English fluently either.  So at one point, the professional was speaking Vietnamese while my mother was speaking Limbum, and through polite gestures the two managed to communicate while I just sat back and observed.  Their form of communication was more efficient than when I tried to play translator.

One thing I like about this spot is the education; the professionals educate their customers about their bodies.  They diagnose what's wrong and explain what customers can do to remedy the situation, both at home as well as in the parlor.  Keep in mind, cosmetology is an ancient art whose origins are actually rooted in medicine.  My mother has been having trouble with one of her toes for the last 23 years, a problem which goes beyond the cosmetic.  Unlike your average pedicurist, the professional broke out a set of special tools, cleared plaque, and applied medication.  Through their form of communication, she and my mother introduced themselves by name, established that my mother should come back on Thursdays, and that her toe would improve during their sessions.  By the end of the appointment, the two were blowing each other kisses to say "Thank you" and "You're welcome."

Many American patrons go to Asian-owned nail parlors rolling their eyes and yelling at the professionals thinking that volume = better comprehension.  After being raised in a traditional African home and going to a school in Cameroon where children from various tribes attended, it's always been my first instinct to simply learn another language.  Ergo, if the parlor of my preference mostly speaks Vietnamese, and I intend to make my patronage long-term, then it makes sense to learn some conversational Vietnamese.

In Cameroon, for example, we have somewhere in the ballpark of 250 tribal dialects and only 19.1 million people.  Thus, it's customary for a Cameroonian to speak anywhere from 3-4 dialects in their region in order to get around (at least it was before the arrival of Pidgin, English, and French).  So I often wonder why Americans living in cities like Houston, LA, or NYC balk at learning enough of various languages to get around comfortably and communicate much more efficiently.  Would it really kill them to learn some basic Vietnamese, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Thai, and Hindi?  I'm not even talking about the whole language; just some basic, polite phrases to ensure effective communication?

I mean, think about how much better people would get along in these places.

13 comments:

  1. Of course Ankh it is too much for us Americans to learn another language. Why should we the rulers of the modern Earth exercise our brains by learning another language? Everyone should be catering to our superior intelligence and first world education.

    You should see how shocked some people (read: white) are when I bust out in Spanish or French with my family. I'm currently working on Swahili.

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  2. Oh, yes...it's just too much work to learn a little bit of a few languages.

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  3. I liked this post a lot, so many people get angry whenever someone or something isn't spoken or written in english as if english was the language of the world.

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  4. You've certainly given me more motivation to work on my languages. I've been learning Spanish on and off. Want to work on Mandarin Chinese and considering Hindi and Arabic. I'm mostly worried about sounding like an idiot. But I do try.

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    1. Glad to hear it! I myself want to improve my French, and learn the basics of a few other languages. I think people get daunted by the thought of learning a WHOLE new language, but I'm like, "Naw...just knock out the basics."

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  5. I really enjoyed this post so much that I'm actually smiling. Very touching.

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  6. I love learning new languages. I'm trying to brush up on my French and Spanish. I was taking classes for them,but timing and them not being able to maintain the meetings became a problem. I knew French before Spanish. I'm not fluent in neither language,but I know French more. I did have light conversations in French. Since I'm no longer taking French classes( At least for the time being), I've been focusing more on Spanish.Though I'm also not talking a language class with that, it is easier being able to access Spanish in unorthodox ways. Sometimes, I go shopping in a majority Latino/Spanish speaking area and just listen to the various tongues wondering if my interpretation of what they are saying is correct. I also check out Telemundo , learn Spanish from BBC programs or read Spanish publications to help me.

    I ask the same question about some Americans not wanting to learn another language. I find it ironic that in a country of different races and cultures, many states cannot stand that concept. I hate it when they mention " English only". I have met Americans who say that when they go to another country learning their cultural customs and speaking their languages, they are impressed with it. As an African American, I enjoy being around different people and learning something new from them. If I had kids I would pass it on to them. I have never been a person that we should just stick with an English only mentality.

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  7. I remember an episode of Real World (or was in Road Rules?) when the group was living in Paris. One of the housemates came from the South, and he was most upset with him having to learn French in order to get around the city. He felt that with English being universal, the French people should have learned English to deal with English speakers.

    Yea....the people in whose country you're living in should have bent over backwards to accommodate you during your short stay. Did I mention that they needed to study conversational French in order to go to their JOBS while in France?

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  8. I studied French and Spanish in high school but haven't taken a class since. My high school was like 50% Puerto Rican so I picked up some Spanish from them too. A friend of mine moved to Houston and speaks Spanish all the time now. They say she speaks with a Puerto Rican accent. I seem to be absorbing some Korean from Kpop and Kdramas. I guess that will come in handy if I ever find myself involved in a love triangle with an arrogant rich guy and a nice rich guy that I take for granted.

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  9. I cited this in my paper because it was a perfect example. I got a 100%. It was either the paper or the porn... XD

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    Replies
    1. Really? A perfect example of what?

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    2. How body language can be used to communicate even if you don't speak the same language.

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