Communication, language and audience

For this week, the Adams’ reading especially resonated with me. I’ve always been interested in languages, and what I can learn about a culture through language. In all of my international travels, I’ve tried to keep my ears open for local slang, and ask questions about origins of terms, why something means what it does, etc. But I think the most interesting lessons I’ve learned have come from other English-language countries.

When I traveled to Scotland several years ago, I found the way people spoke quite odd, despite it being an Anglophone country. The accent was a huge barrier for me, and at times, it felt as though I was communicating with people who didn’t speak English. And me, in my ignorant wisdom at 19, had asserted to every Scot I met that I didn’t have an accent – they had an accent. (This fact still embarrasses me, in retrospect.)

The slang was a bit to grapple with, too:

lift = elevator

crisp = potato chip

chip = French fries

loo/toilets = bathroom

arse = ass

 

And then when people would seemingly ask innocent questions, to which I would respond with this look of concern on my face.

I’ll never forget the first time somebody asked me, “Are you all right?” and I responded with a blank look on my face, “…Yeah… is… something wrong?”

I didn’t know that you’re just supposed to nod and smile when somebody asks that, as it’s just a way of greeting people.

When it comes to communication, I think it’s best to know the cultural bounds in which the language is being used. Even here in the United States, the way advertising or media is presented can be very dependent on the geographic region. I wouldn’t try to transmit the same message in New England that I would in the South.

This really gets back to knowing your audience, and knowing how to tailor your messages to them. Because the audience is the end user, no matter the communicative medium.

 

-DR

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