It was one of those terribly hot days that come around the 4th of July. As I reached the travel agency, I bit my lip and attempted to control my temper.
I had reached a new plane of frustration in my experience as a tourist. Once inside, I let go of my luggage and let loose with my broken Italian.
I must have seemed rather amusing or maybe even frightening to the agent at the counter. This was the third time I had accosted her that afternoon.
I had been trying for five hours to get a ferry ticket to Greece, but my cave-girl phrasing and melodramatic hand gestures weren’t doing me any good. I had been bounced from one end of Florence to the other and back again, playing hopscotch with seven different travel agencies in the process.
After I had finished my odd soliloquy, the agent countered my request with a phrase I had come to hate. She looked at me and said, “Signorina, no comprende.”
I threw my head back and rolled my eyes and repeated, “Quando costas un biglietto Grecia?”
“Dove Grecia?” she asked.
I couldn’t believe it. How could she not know where Greece was; It was a country for goodness sake. Finally, I started drawing pictures.
She took one look at my scribblings and a smile spread over her face, “Oh, momma mia, capito, capito.”
I almost cried I was so happy. “Capito Grecia?” I asked.
She nodded and said, “No, ‘Greesia’, ‘Greechia’ si?”
It was then that I realized I had been mispronouncing the country’s name all afternoon. Who would have thought that a simple switch in consonant sounds could cause so much trouble?
I often hear my fellow students complaining about their professors’ accents. Many people seem to find it very difficult to understand non-native English speakers. Sure, the sounds of a foreign tongue attempting to wrap itself around our irregular sentence structures may not always create the most soothing of melodies, but these people are struggling every day with one of the strangest second languages out there.
They deserve a little compassion. I mean, imagine forcing yourself to not only use your high school Spanish, but to actually attempt to be understood by someone in Mexico City. I’m here to tell you, it’s not that easy.
So many times I see students just give up when they realize their professor doesn’t use perfect English. Not only is this disrespectful, but it is also pretty lazy.
We’ve been spoiled in our country for so long with our unified language system that many people have grown up not being challenged in this department. They seem to get a rude awakening in college and stubbornly expect their teachers to change.
What many of these people don’t realize is that their professors are working on their language skills on a daily basis. Just going to the grocery store is lesson in rhetoric for them.
They are committed to their language development, and we as students should try to take this into consideration. So, the next time you might be tempted to switch into autopilot at the exposure of a foreign lilt, just try to imagine your professor’s point of view.
Try staying awake for a change, they might surprise you.