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Thursday, February 02, 2006

a dilemma

Disclaimer:! The following post may "offend" some people. This is unintentional, and I am sorry if it does. I wrote this after a morning of frustrating phone calls at work. However, the underlying issue is one that I have been struggling with for quite some time. I might have been able to phrase some of what I've written better, but hopefully you hear my heart, and the struggle that I face every day.
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Every day in my job, I take lots of phone calls. Not as many as when I was working a switchboard, but enough. And it's these phone calls that have caused a situation in my life.

I've never thought of myself as racists. Growing up, I lived in a country town where the population consisted of primarily "white" australians, and aboriginals, with a few immigrants from europe thrown in. Many of my closest friends at school were aboriginal. Many of my friends in high school were from other countries, and I really didn't even consider that until just this year.

Once I made a comment to a friend about how I'd never met an indian person until I moved to Sydney. Then I started talking about a friend from school, Rajeev. Hmm. That's not an english name! In all honesty, I believe that the fact that he was indian didn't even factor for me. It was probably just another fact - like if he had a dog, or what music he liked.

But lately, every time I answer the phone, it seems as though I'm speaking to someone who either doesn't speak english, or speaks english very badly? There have been times when the first thing asked by the caller is "do you speak (insert)", and when I say no, they hang up! Just this morning I spent 30 minutes on the phone with someone, trying to explain to him that we were unable to repair his door. 30 minutes!!! If he could speak (and understand) english, then it would have taken not even 5 minutes! Often, I need to ask the caller to repeat themselves many times, just so that I get some idea of what they are speaking about!

It frustrates me no end, and this is my dilemma. I say that I'm not racsist, but I'm becoming extremely frustrated with people who live in our country, and don't speak the language. Is it too much to ask that people who move to Australia from another country learn to speak english? It doesn't make sense to me. It's along the lines of escaping your country because of certain issues - religion, freedom, etc., but then establishing your own "mini-country" in the city in which you settle!

I don't believe that I'm racists, as from what I understand, racsim comes from a fear, or hatred of another race, and I'm not in that boat. If anything, I love the diversity that comes from living in a multi-cultural nation such as Australia. So what does that make me? Or does it just tell me that I need to be more accepting and patient? I keep trying to think what it would be like if I moved to another country where english was not spoken. I'd like to think that maybe I'd take some intensive language classes before I moved there, and continue them after I arrived. Mastering the language would be the first thing on my list. I've heard from friends who've lived abroad that after 12 months immersed in a different culture and language, you find yourself even dreaming in the native language! Understandably, if you've only been in a country for 12 months, you wouldn't have to much of an understanding of the language. But after you've been there for 5, 10, 20 years?

Maybe I just need to go and pray about it.

Comments:
paula i know exactly......i recently found myself in regualr contact with BT about my internet and i couldnt get anyone who understood me. Now first thing is...........i was not the problem, i was speaking slowly, and as loud as i could without shouting but the pooor guy was struggling so bad and to me it makes no sense. I do not have a problem with people from other countries living here, taking jobs etc etc but i struggle with why they are put into what is just as embarrassing a situation for them as it is for me.
 
Paula, In the States we have many people come to live who do not speak English. One of the ways they improve their language skills is to have interaction with someone who speaks English. I understand that your job may be extremely busy and this is time consuming for you, but what if you are the one nice person this guy has to practice English with. Uh, oh, I should not have ended that sentence with a preposition...I need to practice my language skills also! Have a blessed day,
shari
 
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