I walked upstairs and into the office, asking the receptionist, “Cheem?” (Korean for acupuncture.) She didn’t understand so I pointed to a photo I had thought to take of the business sign downstairs and she nodded her head affirmatively. So in my best practiced Korean I asked, “Uhl mah eem nikkah?” (How much does it cost?) She responded, “I no speak English.” Now I thought I was speaking Korean but evidently didn’t quite say what I intended! After a bit, we come to the understanding that a session costs $10. Again trying to speak the native language, I asked how long until my appointment. She answered one hour. I bowed politely and turned to leave but she waves for me to come to the back room, evidently meaning the session lasts one hour and they are ready for me right now.
Before I went to visit the acupuncturist, my son spoke from experience: “Usually it doesn’t hurt, but sometimes it might hurt a little if they misplace one of the needles. In that case you want to know the Korean word for pain: “apayo.” I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t the acupuncturist get the message if I just yelled, “OWWWWW!?” None the less, I learned the word ‘apayo’ but I didn’t need to say it. It was an entirely relaxing and beneficial experience.
They say that whenever two people speak there are really six people talking. There is WHAT I said, what I THOUGHT I said, and what you HEARD me say. And of course, there is what you said, what you thought you said, and what I heard you say. No wonder communication is sometimes difficult! Like the time I went to exchange money in a Bolivian bank. The Spanish word for dollars is very similar to the word for pain. So while I thought I said ‘dolares’ the teller heard me say ‘dolores’ and hence she snickered when she heard me say I wanted to exchange my pain for Bolivianos. (Actually, I could get pretty rich with that kind of exchange! 🙂
Communication is a tricky thing even if only one language is involved. So I reckon it best to laugh at our own mistakes and try again to get the proper message across. It’s well understood that the answer, “Fine!” when spoken between two people can have a number of meanings, including “definitely NOT fine,” depending on the tone of voice and facial expression. So understanding is not just a matter of hearing what was said but how it was said and with what expression. Communication is hard work and easy to mess up even in the best of relationships. Let’s slow down, especially when clear communication most matters and make sure an accurate and respectful message gets across.
“Be careful what you say and protect your life. A careless talker destroys himself.” Proverbs 13:3