Language Is Confusing

I *think* I mentioned that I learned I have been putting the accent on the wrong syllable when I say ‘good afternoon’ in Visayan. And by accenting the second syllable instead of the first, I have been telling people “Good Japanese,” or possibly ‘Good Japan,” but definitely not ‘Good afternoon.”

I also have had trouble sometimes when guiding drivers to our house. I say left (wala) and they repeat it, and then I think I am agreeing and I repeat it, and they say, “No?” and then start to go right. Very confusing. I started gesturing a lot more, but this is awkward since I am in back and they are in the driver’s seat. I began to wonder if I was wrong and wala doesn’t mean left at all, because it was so confusing.

The accent got me again. If you say wala in an even tone, it means left. But if you put any kind of emphasis on the second syllable, it means ‘not,’ which you can see changes everything.

Our household helper explained the difference to me today, and I was so relieved to understand what I have been doing wrong. Such a seemingly small thing and it makes all the difference in the world- the difference between getting where I want to go and getting hopelessly confused, the difference between easy communication between two people and a hopeless tangle of misunderstanding, all in a single accented syllable.

In daily life amongst other humans, those small things, little gestures, a smile, a moment to actually look at somebody and see him or her with your whole heart, letting somebody else in line ahead of you, telling somebody who is taking too much time in line at the grocery store that it’s not a problem and really meaning it, a shared stick of gum or offering a hand to somebody stepping out of a car or down a step- it takes a moment, but it might change everything for somebody else. In that moment, when you smile and something changes for them, you also are blessed, and the small gesture reflects back to you.
Put the accent where it belongs- on kindness, a charitable interpretation, and consideration for others.

P.S. She said Visayan made no sense, that was silly. But then I told her that the word hair in English could be pronounced exactly the same way, just spelled differently, and it meant a kind of rabbit, and we agreed that Visayan wasn’t so crazy after all.

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