Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Work Diaries (1) : Living the “One Fine Day” experience :)

My job puts me in the weirdest situations. Best part is that I have to “manage” one way or the other, to deal with different people of different levels, different cultures, and last but not least, different LANGAUGES!!
Lol, yep, languages, the key word to my stickiest situations. When I was a kid and started learning English as a second language, I was so damn excited and thought: “I’m gonna be special, I can speak English”. Shortly after that I realized that it is great to speak English fluently, but you can’t be special when almost all people around you speak English. And because I adore something called languages, I thought I should be specialized in a new language in university. Back then the only choices open were to learn either French, or English/ French, or German, or English/ German. And because the third language taught in many private schools was French, I though German would be new and special, and why not prove my English skills at the same time? So I ended up double majoring English and German. I was SURE three languages will unlock all doors of communication and working in future. It was until I got to Tunisia that I knew I was WRONG :P people speaking French and all is something I’ve already talked about 100 times before, but it isn’t what made me realize that 3 languages are not enough. It was this job I have. I was hired for my good English in the first place, and was assured I wont need to use any other language except for Arabic. But from day 1 I figured out that French comes as free gift with the package of my post, lol, it’s ok because I can handle myself and my course is helping me improve. But the disaster is when I need to contact an English speaking fellow in somewhere like MEXICO for example. Now the problem is not with the person himself, but in how to get to that person when no one else around speaks neither English nor French nor German!!
I had to call a Mr. Lopez, I dialed the number and there someone picked up:
Him: Hola! ----------------------- (I understood nothing)
Me: Hi, this is Eman, from … Tunisia, I need to speak to Mr. Lopez please.
Him: hahaahahaha (laughs) ----------------------- (once again I understood no word)
Me: Sorry, don’t you speak English?
Him: No , No English (hahahaha)
Me: Parlez Vous Français?
Him : Hahahaha, ----------- el español, ---- el inglés es secundario,-------
Me: Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
Him: hahaha,-------- el español, ------
Me: Mr. Lopez!! Lopez!!
Him: Señor Lopez----------
Me: ok forget about it, bye.
Him: hahahaha

After hanging up I go to the manager and explain the disaster, he was shocked that such a big company has not a single employee that speaks English! But he made it clear, that it was urgent and I have to get to Mr. Lopez in any way.
So I had to figure out a way, and I had no other choice than this “very smart” idea, lol, well, I went to freetranslation.com, and opened dictionary.com just to double check if words are somehow the same and if the syntax is right, although no online dictionary could give a 100% accurate and correct context, but better than nothing right! Anyway I wrote sentences that might be said in such a situation with all answering possibilities -that I could think of- , created a word document with the conversation possibilities and called again:
Him: Hola! --------------
Me: Hola mi nombre es Eman, yo soy de Túnez, yo necesito hablar con Sr. Lopez por favor.
Him: hahahaha (first time I know why he laughed: my terrible accent), El no está aquí (which means he’s not here)------------------ (couldn’t keep track :P)
Me: Cómo pueda yo lo alcanzo, es realmente urgente? (how can I reach him, it’s really urgent).
Him: ---------------------------------- (not a word matched any of the answers I had) and then he went on :----------------------------
I know he thought I knew Spanish, so I explained: Yo no puedo hablar español, por favor lo hace corto y me da su número de móvil (I can't speak Spanish, please make it short and give me his mobile number)
Him: no ninguna señora, usted habla muy bien (no no madame, you speak very well), and then he went : -----------------------------
Him: --------------------------- (said the numbers in Spanish)
Me: gracias y adios (thank you and bye)
Him: hahahahaa, adios, -----------------

I hung up and my boss was like: “ Few minutes ago you had a problem speaking to that Spanish guy and now look at you!! You never mentioned you can speak Spanish!!” , I replied: “yeah, because I never spoke Spanish”, and then explained the trick. I really remembered my favorite movie: “One Fine Day”, I’ve always loved that movie, but I never thought I’d ever be put in such an embarrassing situation, not only this, but also the names me and George Clooney were looking for were the same: “Lopez” looool. Anyway, after laughing my head off, I finally called this Sr. Lopez, who spoke fluent English. I explained the urgent matter and he said:"I will get back to you with the information you need as soon as I reach the office, which is 3 hours from now, because it’s FIVE in the morning!".
It was till then that I realized why there was not a single English speaking person to help me out. The one who replied was the guard!! And he doesn’t need more than Spanish to communicate simply because he’s not supposed to get calls at 5 a.m.!! I was embarrassed like hell. And well, it’s not that I only disturbed the guard and the poor guy in his home, but I also wasted my time translating and putting phrases together!!!
Ah, c’est la vie, if we don’t make mistakes we’ll never learn, and if we don’t piss off people, we’re never human :P