Wednesday 13 February 2013

Speaking the same language

Living in Dubai means that you live in a swirl of accents. It is one of the biggest challenges of my day – understanding people and being understood. We're all speaking the same language but not understanding each other!

Picking up the phone, I take a deep breath, put my listening ears on and get ready to repeat myself. So much gets misunderstood especially on the phone, but not only.

Yesterday, I bought a falafel roll for lunch (seriously the best in the world, by the way), I put my order in and was asked "Would you like a drink?", when I asked what drinks they had, she typed into the register and said: "That will be 11 dirhams, please." Totally not understanding what I said she'd moved on. I can't complain because I'm guilty of this, don't understand or I've asked someone to repeat themselves too many times and I just move the conversation along, leaving behind that awkward moment when you're staring quizzically at each.

Quite often, if you're dealing with a tradesperson or similar, they'll just ask you to SMS to avoid confusion. Which is smart. Last week, I was trying to get someone's email address and it took three phone calls and a ton of embarrassment until I got it right.

There is an ad currently on the radio that pokes fun of some of the misunderstandings that happen on the phone here due to the many different accents. I'm glad it's not just me!

On of the most noticeable effects of being surrounded by world of accents, is that my girls are developing the weirdest accents imaginable. It's a mix of Australian, Canadian, American, Irish, British and, sometimes, just sometimes, I hear a little Filipino.

On that odd occasion I meet up with another Australian, I speak fast and full of Strine, relaxed in the knowledge that I'm being understood.

Of course it's not just accents either, it's all those little words that Aussies understand that our other native English speaking friends may not. Having a barbie and having to explain what a 'snag' or an 'esky' is. The kids asking for tomato sauce or lemonade and getting something very different to what they expected (let's not even talk about the fact that my kids now use the word 'candy').  Requesting to meet at midday and getting a "Huh? When?". The girls went to a friend's home after school and asked if they could have some afternoon tea, they were told (in the nicest possible way) "I didn't realise the Queen was coming over."

It's all part of the fun!


  1. You know what I hate? Being called 'MOM' arrrghhh it grates. it really grates.

  2. Haha, that made me laugh about the kids accents. That must be really weird for you to hear, but also kinda cute. It would be so tiring having to constantly repeat yourself, not to mention often not actually getting the things you intended or wanted. Good on you Corinne, after this stint in Dubai, you'll be able to live anywhere in the world! xo

  3. Lovely you made me laugh out loud with this one that I spilt my tea everywhere!!! Was worth it though x

  4. SMS is becoming a definite tool in interpretation, I know deaf people that use it a lot to help get their message across!


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