Language, either verbal or sign, is a tool that we humans use to communicate with each other.
When we speak to someone, there is an expectation of reciprocity, a response of understanding. A “yes” or “no”, or a nod or a “mmm” or some gesture of affirmation that there was an exchange of information, whether they agree or disagree.
According to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary), language means: 1 [mass noun] the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.
Another simpler definition is that language is: “Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols.” In this definition, notice the operative word “communication”which means that the goal is to be able to convey a message.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, communication is a “process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior”.
You may ask why I am obsessing with the idea of “communication”. It’s simply because I am having a hard time communicating or, for a lack of a better word, understanding when people here talk to me when I ask for directions or just try to inquire, or perhaps vice versa.
This is what I hear most of the time in Dumaguete when people talk to me: “Si kuan, nag-kuan sa kuan…”. Exactly what does that mean?
Frankly, I have no idea what it means. If this is what I often hear people say, how on earth are people here understanding each other?
Often, I notice that when I ask for driving directions, it is a big production to decipher the directions given. It’s always like, “Just drive straight and when you hit a bump going down, it is somewhere there about a few kilometers.” Again, what the heck does that mean? I tried to follow such directions and I ended up heading nowhere.
Aren’t people aware there are such things as “left” and “right” and “east, west, north, south”? They are actually useful words for giving directions, and are designed for more accurate location.
I know that the majority of the cars here in Dumaguete don’t have GPS yet, so, for now, finding directions is just going to be a challenging experience.
I cannot express how frustrating it is to ask a simple direction, and end up getting a complicated instruction which often doesn’t make any sense.
But most impressive of all, somehow this issue does not bother others when they get lost because of bad direction. Aaaahh! The beauty of patience, which I’m afraid I lack entirely.
One of the worse miscommunications I encounter is when I go to a certain office for inquiries, and lo and behold, the information was lacking important facts that I need.
One time I went to an office and asked for so and so, and the response was, “Ma’am, just come back this afternoon”. And when I went back in the afternoon looking for that person, the response from another person was, “S/he is not in today, Ma’am, so come back tomorrow”.
Did I just miss important information from my previous inquiry? Or was I at fault for not asking leading questions to get a satisfactory answer? I tried my very best to express my question in the most articulate, simple way and even follow it up with a leading specific question, and yet, I still ended up getting incorrect information. Maybe it’s just me, right?
The worse offense of any miscommunication incident that I recently encountered was dealing with a telecommunication company which is quite ironic, if you ask me.
The situation was that they never contacted me that my service with them was cut off until I decided to go to their office to inquire what happened to my service.
First off, in my own consumer advocacy rules, a telecommunication company should always communicate with their customers if there are any changes in their services, and second, a telecommunication company should never say they don’t exchange information within their organization because they are separate departments.
Frankly, if a telecommunication company doesn’t even communicate or share information within their organization, they should either close shop or fire their people for being incompetent. Or perhaps recommend communication training for all their staff.
I asked what happened to my service, and their response was, “Ma’am, we cut off your service because you did not pay your bill”.
I said, “But I never got any of my bills”.
Their response: “Yes, it says in our computer the bills that we sent you were returned-to-sender”.
I asked, “Whose fault is it that that you did not get my address correctly?” I added, “What is your protocol when the bills or correspondence you send to customers come back as ‘returned to sender’?”
Their answer: “We don’t really have any protocol about that, other than we wait for you to come to our office”.
At that point, I was dumbfounded by what I just heard, which was the most ridiculous thing. So I continued my probing: “Your field staff were able to know my exact address, that’s how they installed the antenna. Why don’t you have the information they have?”
Their idiotic response” “Well, we are a different department from our field staff.”
And my obnoxious response: “You are a telecommunication company. You should be able to communicate within your organization especially since your office is just two rooms. How silly is that?”
Well, at the end of the whole conversation, they actually had the nerve to charge me a reconnection fee for something that was their own fault. Of course, they had no choice but to waive their reconnection fee after I gave them a barrage of criticisms.
My point to this story is not to humiliate any company or person for their incompetence, rather, it is merely a public service information for those of us who are constantly harassed by companies who don’t know how to communicate.
It’s the public who ends up paying the price, with either their time or money wasted. That’s just a shame.
I suggest the consumer advocacy group in the Province can assist the public who get intimidated by these companies.
In fairness to all, I do sometimes feel myself misunderstood when I am talking to people here about a particular thing, especially when I am trying to speak Visayan, which is not my mother tongue. The reaction that I get tends to be “huh?” (Meaning, I have no idea what you are talking about but I am just going to pretend that I do because you are rambling and I want you to stop.)
Well, I guess it takes two to tango. So let’s try to communicate better for fewer mistakes, and more understanding for a progressive community.