Sunday, June 13, 2010

What'd They Say?

I think that’s what really bothers us about cell phones, foreign-language speakers and those who use sign language. We are voyeurs at heart.

I work at a college where one of the big complaints is about the smallest matters (isn’t it always the truth?): students whipping out their cell phones as soon as class ends and talking as they walk across campus. Unlike most others here, I see no problem with it and hold a whole different view: we want to hear both sides.

When people are walking along, even if we can’t make out what they are saying, as least we can hear the sounds and some occasional words. Or all of them. When one side is on a phone, we can’t. We are excluded, whereas the students are in contact with each other no matter where each may happen to be.

We can’t understand the Hispanics. Why do we want them to speak English? So we know what they are saying, no more and no less. Maybe they’re talking about us, maybe they are planning something, maybe… But we don’t think about that when we speak our language in another country. Those people don’t care.

“What are they saying?” seems to be the common thought. “They should be speaking our language (so we can understand what they are saying).” “They should not be using cell phones (because we can’t hear what the other person is saying).” ‘fess up: we’re all curious about others’ conversations.


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