When I was a kid, I didn’t travel much. My parents, sister and I would take road trips to San Francisco or Edmonton, but that was about as far South and East as we’d really gone (other than trips to Malaysia to visit all of our family). My sister and I would sit in the back seat and sing songs (Puuuffff the magic draaaagon lived by the sea…) and read Archie comics while our parents drove. Not only until a few years ago did I start traveling and expanding my scope of the world. Having been to Sydney, Cabo, Waikiki, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Beijing, and Toronto (yes Toronto) over the past 2 years, did I realize that there are actually *gasp* other cultures outside of my Vancouverite shell. The food, the people, the sites and most of all the languages that people spoke were all different and unique and it really puts an excitement to exploring new things.
When I was in Beijing in June, my friends and I were at an outdoor food market. My mandarin is so-so and I walked up to a drink vendor and asked if they had any watermelon juice. She looked at me confused and then handed me some straws. I said no, WAT-ER-MELON JUICE (in slow, drawn out broken mandarin). She handed me more straws. When you’re interacting with people, there’s a lot of differences in what they perceive your meaning as versus what you are actually trying to say. The spoken language is an easy one to determine as you either get it or you don’t, but what about other types of languages? Could the meaning of intention be misunderstood as well if two people don’t speak the same language? I read this book called ‘The 5 languages of Love’ by Gary Chapman (Yes I’m a guy and I will read everything you put in front of me).
In every type of relationship you have, whether it be with your wife, boyfriend, sister, father, aunt, colleague, teammate, etc, you are interacting with another human bean. They were raised differently than you, taught differently than you, experienced different experiences than you and that all makes them as unique as you are (Unless you’re Henrik and Daniel, then you’re just the same person cloned). This also means that they most likely will perceive things differently than you. People often misunderstand each other and take offense when no offense was meant. This is most common between couples as ego and emotions are heavier in romantic relationships than in friendships and you expect more from your partner than you would your colleague. Just as in the spoken language, people need to learn the other person’s language if you want to effectively communicate your message across to them.
In the book, Chapman describes how a couple who are really deeply in love with one another, don’t feel it from their partner, even though the emotions are really there. They are simply just speaking different languages and can’t communicate the message across. Frustration and resentment sets in and we all know it goes downhill from there. Shame. Here are the 5 languages as described: Quality time, Words of Affirmation, Physical touch, Acts of service and Gifts.
Imagine if your parents had always shown you that they cared for you by picking up little things for you on their way home from work. A card, a toy, a slurpee on a hot day. You were constantly reminded that they loved you because they had a surprise for you all the time. And when you grow into an adult, you show your partner that you care for them by doing the same, but they never return that sentiment. Or what if you cared for your girlfriend and you always wanted to spend time with her; make her dinner, take her to new places and explore new things, watch tv together, and just be in the same place giving her your undivided attention. To the girl, she might feel trapped, suffocated because her boyfriend wants to be with her all the time. She doesn’t feel loved though, because he’s not surprising her with things all the time. And to the guy, his girlfriend may shower him with gifts, but he doesn’t feel cared for because when they’re together, she is always cracking out on her berry or somewhere mentally distant and not truly with him. They care for each other, but don’t share the same language.
Just like when you travel and learn Japanese before you go to Japan, people should learn what their partners language is so it doesn’t get lost in translation. While the good intent is always there, the meaning of it often will get gobbled up and spit out because of each individuals experiences up to the point that they met you. Don’t hand your girlfriend a straw when she’s asking for watermelon juice.