Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Week 3: The language

So the good news is that I didn't do anything horrifyingly stupid this week. The bad news is that I didn't do anything horrifyingly stupid this week...so you don't have that to look forward to. What I have started to pick up on is the wonderful British Language....

A common American greeting to a passerby or to begin a conversation is 'How are you doing?' or 'What are you up to?'. Not so much here. For the first week, I seriously thought that I looked sickly (or suffering as they say) or lost because everyone kept asking me 'You alright?'. I would hesitantly reply yes, only to realize that they didn't really care if I was truly alright, but only saying it...much as we would when we ask how someone is doing.

The other thing that sticks out to me is that whenever someone is talking and they want to pause, instead of saying 'um', 'ah', 'so', 'therefore', they say 'yea?' with an inflection in their voice. Now, I took this as an actual question, as in whether or not I agreed or understood what they were saying. Not the case. It is entirely rhetorical as far as I can tell.

I guess both of these situations exemplify a typical question of concern or request for feedback in America. Therefore, when people here say these phrases to me, it feels that they then are interrupting my response because they continue talking. It's one of those strange cultural things that I think will take some time and is kind of humorous. We're both doing what's natural for us, but it has such a different interpretation.

My 3rd main observation on British communication involves when you walk into someone's office to ask them a question. Typical Americans love instant gratification and response, therefore when someone walks into my office to ask a quick question, it is typical to wait for 10-15 seconds while I finish my sentence. At this point, I might pause my conversation, turn and ask how I can help. In England, it seems, that when you go to ask someone a question, they will wave you in and then proceed to finish possibly a 10-15 minute conversation without acknowledging your presence almost. It's kind of nice because it shows they're focused on the conversation at hand, but nonetheless, different from what I'm used to!

Finally, I have found that when someone is laid off here they are referred to as 'being made redundant'. Now, I may note that I have not managed to already be laid off, thank goodness. However, I have heard the term and feel that it is an even more positive way of saying you're 'letting someone go'. It makes sense when you're backfilling someone to say they are being made redundant, simply by the definition of the word redundant....but how does that work when you just get rid of a position? are they then just fired? Will let you know if I figure it out.


Dean said...

keep it coming...this stuff is very interesting

Rebekah said...

I like the way they call everyone "mate." :)

I wonder if the "yea" is the same as how the Canadians say "eh?"