Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I have been very confused in meetings this year. Mostly because I don't understand the language (Xhosa). In particular, I sometimes watch people responding to something that I have suggested and from their body language I am convinced that they are disagreeing with me. Then when my interpreter catches up, I discover that actually they are supporting me. The one thing is that the Xhosa-speakers don't seem to smile as much as native English-speakers do when agreeing. The other thing is the illogic of the body language - and language of English. Specifically in this sort of situation. "So you mean that it doesn't come in a smaller size?" The English-speaker shakes his or her head and says, "No, it doesn't." The Xhosa-speaker nods his or head and says, "Yes, it doesn't." Or I might says, "you won't write any cash cheques?" and the Xhosa-speaker nods and says, "Yes, I won't." When you don't get the language, the body language is very confusing!
Someone said to me the other day, "we are just coping." To me that means that they are struggling. To him it meant that they are having no problems, they are only coping.

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