Thursday, February 04, 2010


Bratislava Dispatch: Once again, I am immersed in a non-English-speaking culture and it is a fascinating, instructive experience. On the whole, Slovakians largely appear to be indifferent, if not outright annoyed, by those who don't speak the native language. Those who have taken the time to learn enough English to converse seem to have had that annoyance dissipate quickly.

The balance tilts the other way in Prague or Budapest, much larger cities with a regular influx of Americans, British, Canadians and Australians speaking English. Czechs also appear to be, if not charmed, then at least appreciative if one makes an effort to speak the language. Slovakians, if they don't already speak some English, don't seem to appreciate it at all. I'm told Slovakian spoken with an American accent sounds hilariously odd to the native ear. Hungarians, apparently, don't expect anyone to make the effort, Magyar being a notoriously thorny language to learn.

I have a renewed respect for someone like my older brother, who is deaf, and has to figure his own way through the day if there isn't anyone to offer guidance. He has often explained that he doesn't have to understand most of what a person says to get the gist of the conversation and to act accordingly.

It gives one pause to think about how much talking we're doing, as opposed to really communicating.

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