Cross cultural communication fail

I really had this conversation with a Filipina woman about my age, a very nice, kind lady. She was asking me how my language studies were going and I said I really was botching the grammar completely, and there were some words I consistently mixed up- tukod (to build) and tahud (reverence or respect). “Oh, I can help you,” she said.
I waited eagerly for her advice. “When you want to say to build just think about tukod, don’t think of tahud. Tukod is to build.”

Well. Yes. If I could remember that, then I would not be mixed up about them. So I laughed, because from point of view, obviously, I thought she was joking, but I think I hurt her feelings because she was serious. Her advice was from the standpoint of somebody who is a native speaker. She can’t see why I can’t see how helpful that is, and I can’t see why she thinks it is helpful. And laughing, well,that was just rude from her POV.

Chances are, if you’re 3rd culture, you can see what happened and feel sorry for and amused by both of us.
If you’re a westerner, you think she’s more to blame than I am. If you’re an easterner, you may see why her advice wasn’t helpful, but you feel more strongly that I definitely should not have laughed.

And that’s kind of an allegory for cross cultural communication.

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2 Comments

  1. Ashley
    Posted March 18, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    But NOW you’ll remember, right!? haha

    • Headmistress
      Posted March 19, 2018 at 1:13 am | Permalink

      Ha. And nope.
      I realized I also should have added that Asians probably need to know our respective ages before deciding if laughing was worse than the advice. FWIW, I’m almost exactly a year older than she is, so the fact that I laughed isnt as bad as it could be.

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