Saturday, September 22, 2012

Speaking Manitoban

Somewhere along the line, I think we've forgotten how to speak Manitoban. We can still string the words together, but communicating is an altogether different story! I've been wondering lately why that is, and I've come up with a few theories that seem reasonable:

  • In Asia, body language is paramount, and it seems it's the words that matter most here
  • We've been working with a team of pilots from the US, so while we think we're still speaking the same language, the meaning of our words and the way we communicate has changed-- not to mention how international our bigger team has been, with members from multiple countries
  • So much of what we all talk about is no longer familiar, so we are struggling just to grasp the main ideas and subjects
In the end, I'm sure it's a mix of all of the above. Like my friend who refused to ride with a Filipino because he was flirty: in reality, he raised his eyebrows simply as an affirmative response to her question! We have become accustomed to a very limited amount of personal space and privacy, yet those are highly valued here. (And I apologise profusely to those of you I've back into a corner by standing too close-- thankfully I don't think there are too many of you this time! My mom once told me that if somebody took a step backward when I was talking to them, I should never follow-- I'm trying to remember that!) 

Non-verbal communication is very important in Asia, and as such it is key to watch people when you talk to them and respond to their non-verbal cues, not so much the verbal ones. Here communication seems to rest mainly on the words that are spoken, and much of what we "hear" in the non-verbal is either unimportant or we misinterpret it. Still, there seem to be some non-verbal cues that I'm missing... when I'm in a 3-way conversation I often hear people respond to one another in ways that don't make sense to me, and I'm trying to figure out what's going on that I'm missing. 

So, yes, we are still on a journey of cultural adjustment and language learning. As our instinctive culture has changed over the years, we find that no matter where we go we need to learn things. There's a certain sense of wonder and adventure in the learning, a joy in each discovery, and a deep contentment in knowing this is a journey God has planned for us!

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