Archive for the ‘Communication Skills’ Category

Run That By Me Again ….. ?

I’ve seen some strange things written in newspapers, where it is clear that the writer, and indeed the proofreader, didn’t look at the whole meaning of the sentence and these two seem to take the biscuit.

Having read an article online some months ago, about a fatal stabbing in a supermarket, the article went on to say that another person has a cut to his finger but they ‘don’t think it’s connected’. What did ‘don’t think it’s connected’ mean? Not connected to the hand or not connected to the fatal incident?

Today, again in an online newspaper, regarding the rape charges being brought against the footballer, Adam Johnson, I have just read that ‘he faces a significant jail term after he was found guilty of one count of sexual contact with a child at Bradford Crown Court’. Do rapes actually happen in courts, as this is what this sentence says?

This is why work should be checked and checked again for, a sentence which may make sense to you might not actually say what you meant it to say.

All hail the proofreader (but was there one in these two cases?)

Remembering Who You Are …. .

After a long ride, I have come to understand how important accent and dialect are and I’d like to tell you why.

Although I currently live in Spain, any UK native will tell me that I am a Geordie, though I am not.  Although I was brought up only twenty miles or so south of Geordieland (the Newcastle area in the north-east of England), I am a colliery girl and I therefore speak ‘pitmatic’ but, nevertheless, as regards to accent and dialect, my comments are not affected by this separation.

At the age of eleven, while playing in the schoolyard just outside the teachers’ staffroom, someone had shouted “haway man!”  For those who don’t understand the north-eastern accent, this means ‘come on (with me)’.  In the classroom some half an hour later, the teacher asked “Whooooo was that shouting ‘haway man outside the staffroom’?”  It was me, though I didn’t admit to it.

At the age of eighteen, and married, I made a conscious decision that I did not want to speak with the accent I had and, by the age of about twenty five, I was able to make sure that every word ending ‘ing’ did indeed sound like that, other than ‘un’ as it did in my accent.  ‘Gowun’ became ‘going’, ‘makun’ became ‘making’ and so on.  I never did realise that ‘I’m’ came out as ‘ahm (like ‘arm’) and still does to this day.

Forty years later, and living in Spain, in an area where very few English people live, a couple came into our regular bar.  He was from Durham, about fifteen miles from where I was brought up and, after speaking with him for about an hour, I left for home.  Upon arrival, I was disgusted with myself because, all of a sudden, I realised that I had indeed been copying his accent and I felt an urgent need to  hopefully bump into him again, so as to apologise.

But then I realised that I hadn’t been copying him.  My native pronunciation  seemed to have arrived out of the blue and, in truth, was a natural lapse into my own mother pronunciation.  It felt so wrong but, on later occasions when I have met with people from the north-east of England, or when I return to visit family, there it is again, just waiting to be oozed into existence.

A few years ago, and after this aforementioned event, I read about a UK journalist who had lived in the USA for many years.  He said that he found that, when visiting England, his native UK pronunciation always popped out to play and, more interestingly, when in England but talking about his life in the USA, he spoke with an American accent.

Language is an incredible thing and I have learnt that you can’t leave your real self behind.  Now, at the age of retirement, I do wish that I spoke with my native accent, though I am so pleased to know that it does return now and then, to remind me who I am.





Maybe I’m Truly Not Smart Enough for my Smart Phone … .

Well, I now know why people like these Smart phones and other clever models. Mine is now broken, it’s wrapped ready to be returned to the manufacturer and, even though the parcel hasn’t yet left my house, I’m missing it already. I tried to repair it. Honestly, I did. I spoke in my best Spanish to BQ, the manufacturers who are located in Madrid and I have to say that, by the time I got off the phone, I was rather proud of myself.

Okay, the phone is still broken but I managed that call. At the moment, my phone is more like a sex toy. It vibrates …. and vibrates …. and vibrates. I always charge all of my phones each night but now, with my Smartphone, I have to take out the battery at night, as the vibration is keeping me awake.

So, it vibrates, the icons change from big to small every two seconds, the pages change when they wish (one second I’m looking at my e-mails, even though I didn’t request that page and,, the next second, I’m looking at ‘settings’ and I didn’t request that one either. So, as it’s Easter, the parcel won’t be collected until next Monday (it’s not part of the Easter holidays here in Spain and then I’ll have to simply wait, while alternating two SIM cards between one phone.

Oh, the joy of life in the technical world …. .


Am I Not Clever Enough for my Smart Phone?

I’ve had one mobile phone or other for over twenty years and I’ve never had a problem in using one …. until now.

 Okay, so I’ve moved across from the bog standard mobile to a, shall I say, very smart phone indeed and, after three months, it’s still getting the better of me.

 It’s an Aquaris (this is not a spelling mistake) 3.5 and, though I bought it here in Spain, everything about it is in English. 

So the problem doesn’t lie there. 

I’ve joined WhatsApp and Viber and her lies the problem. 

I have a few students of English here in Spain and some of them are coming up in my WhatsApp application, appearing only as telephone numbers.  So I thought that I would go along the lines of giving these telephone numbers real names.

And it hasn’t been easy. 

The names of three of my students are Sara, Ana and Silvia.  Somehow, I have four ‘Sara’s listed, one of which is really Ana and then a real Ana.  Silvia is now listed as Sharon and then there’s Carlos and José who are listed as each other.  Try as I might, they’re not budging.  This dilemma made a very interesting class with one of my ‘mobile savvy (and more in the loop than I am)’ students, who has told me how to make Sara only one woman, stop Ana sharing her identity with Sara, make Silvia a student rather than my daughter and, well, make Carlos and José who they really are …. .

Thanks but …. er… well …. I’m still trying and, with sheet of paper in  hand to accompany my ‘more clever than I’ mobile phone, I’m managing to connect to the right people via my Aquaris 3.5 mobile.

Nelson Mandela and the ‘Fake’ Interpreter … .

So, was the interpreter fake?

I doubt it.

Maybe he wasn’t sufficiently qualified but fake, no.

And I’ll tell you why I think this.

I saw the clip on TV, where the black gentleman was signing and, yes, I did think, he doesn’t seem to be translating much of what is being said, but still.

I studied and practised British sign language (BSL) for twenty years.  I reached stage III and now let me clarify this:-

Stage I – five year old talk, when compared to a spoken language.

Stage II – like an ‘O’ level or a GCSE.

Stage III – like an ‘A’ level (so, now you’re talking, if you’ll excuse the pun).

Stages IV + + get you up to a qualified interpreter etc..

Sign language became an education option in the late eighties (I was there in 1986) and, at that stage, people with stage I (me included) thought they were ready to take off.  Two or three years later, stage II arrived (I was there) and then students realised how basic stage I was.  Stage III arrived many years later (around 1998 and, yes, I was there), success making the candidate feel really good about themselves (include me in on that).

With stage II, one is able to communicate in colleges of education, giving deaf people that fair access to education courses.  However, in the deaf community, people started to get a little, shall I say ‘uppity’, wanting stage III for absolutely everything, when stage II really was a good level to carry out that work.  I’m not talking court cases but I am talking everyday needs. Complaints about a signer not being good enough became an issue (been there), even when the signer (adequate stage II) was doing a good job.

So, the gentleman on TV for the Nelson Mandela translation.  Okay, maybe he should have realised that such an international viewing should have had someone with a higher level of signing communication.  As sign language is not only national but also has regional differences, who am I to say he was a fake?  What I will say is he looked professional, his style was definitely signing and not miming and, yes, I could see the possibility of ‘foreign to me’ signs in there.

Poor lad.  Don’t give up.  Keep going, get more practice but remember to stay more within the everyday area of affairs than in international situations.  As a stage III signer, I doubt I would have accepted that same work, as criticism was bound to happen.

If I’m wrong about the gentleman, my account of signing in the deaf world is still as I have described.  As I said, I’ve been there, done it ….. .

Sign language is a beautiful and very full language but not all deaf people have an ‘A’ level (i.e. BSL stage III).  The same as for speakers of English: the everyday person speaks the language without holding a certificate.  I sometimes read books which, even with a very good standard of English, I need a dictionary beside me to work out some of the words, some where much simpler words would have said the same thing …. .

Hmm ….. I’ve said enough, I think … .

And the Almost Immediate Reply to my E-Mail Was …..

Regarding my last posting about losing my rag, the reply I received was:-

‘Please note that in order to make changes on a policy, we require you to have been habitually resident in the UK for greater than 12 months’.

Oh, dear.  With less than twelve months to go on the policy in question, what does that mean?  Is it a lose-lose situation?

Still … .

‘Collecting Stamps’ or ‘Losing your Rag’?

I praise myself as being placid but there’s always something that comes along and, without thinking, you give it both barrels.  For me, it was an insurance company …… .


I now live in Spain and, after two frustrating hours of trying to get a landline number to call you on, I managed to speak with a very nice young lady called (blank), who informed me that, as your letters to us were returned to you, she couldn’t tell me anything about our insurance policy, until I had reconfirmed our very being.  You will see attached here, one of the letters you sent to us in Spain, which we did receive and which tells us that you do know our address.  This letter of 2008 talks about ‘our proposal to transfer certain policies to (such and such (other) insurance company)’ and I therefore suggest that, upon this transfer, it is you, as a company, that made a mistake with our address.  Maybe you referred back to our English address and, no, we haven’t lived there now for eight years.

I attach here the papers (name of contact via the phone call) requested, including my driving licence and my husband’s, my passport and my husband’s, a utility bill from our house in Spain, a copy of you taking our money from our bank account and, of course, the copy of the letter that I did receive in 2008. (name of contact via the phone call) has assured me that, when you have removed our Spanish address and once again added the very same, I will be able to talk to you about our policy and the possibility of extending it.  However, I am wondering that if, for five years, you have been taking our money and you didn’t truly know that we still existed, maybe my best route of action is to ask for a refund of around three thousand pounds.   I would appreciate your help on this matter.  That is, once you are satisfied that my husband and I do still exist, in the same place you already knew us to be. 

It’s amazing how angry a placid person can get, when a problem isn’t of their own making. 

My Name. 

28 November 13. 

(0034) xxx xx xx xx (a fixed line number that relates to the house we have been living in for eight years) 

(0034) xx xx xx xxx (Spanish mobile number). 

07895 xxx xxx (English mobile number).

Strangely enough, I feel better for letting it all out.  Let’s see what happens … .