Tag Archives: communication

Context is everything – This message sent from right behind you.

picture taken in the Pope's living room.

picture taken in the Pope’s living room.

So you get an email from someone and at the bottom it says “Sent from iPhone. Please pardon typos” or something to that effect. That’s interesting.

Once upon a time, we didn’t automatically understand the context of the communications we received. Now we do – to a small extent and under limited circumstances.

But – I was wondering just how deep we can go with this, so I took that kernel of an idea and completely blew it out of proportion and came up with the following list of scenarios that provide the context behind messages you may have received or given in your lifetime.

Are there any contexts that could completely change the meaning of a message? This is not a test, I’m just asking. Think about it a little bit. Okay I’m done talking. My head hurts. Just read the list.

Message sent from the toilet.

Message sent from your bathroom.

Message sent from right behind you.

Message sent from my heart to your head.

Message sent while thinking about a past lover.

Smiley face sent to you while experiencing feelings of despairing rage.

Message sent while in love with you.

Sent while in love with your lover.

Message sent while wondering if you like me.

Message sent. I don’t like cats.

Sent from the bathroom at an Indian food restaurant.

Sent while figuring out how much this is going to cost me in the long run.

Sent from a real computer with a full keyboard. If there are any typo’s, it’s because I’m an idiot.

Sent while eating chef Boyardee from the can. Just to be clear, I’m not eating on the toilet, just sending a message while eating food straight from the can.

Sent while watching the first season of Project Runway alone on a Friday.

Sent instead of emailing my mom back.

Sent in place of meaningful communication with my family.

Message sent. I’m lonely.

Message sent. I’m more successful than you.

Sent from my iPhone. My devices make me feel important. I have more of them than I do friends.

Sent from my Android. You should read more.

Sent from the future. Enjoy the present while you can.

Sent from backstage at that show you’ve been meaning to go to.

Sent from the 38 Geary bus in San Francisco.

Sentence spoken to you while anxiously looking for someone else and not paying attention at all to what you were saying.

Sentence spoken to you while wondering what you think about me.

Sentence spoken to you while wondering how that man could be so good-looking.

Sentence spoken while trying to impress you.

Sentence spoken while being jealous of you.

Sentence spoken. Do you think I’m funny?

Sent from my laptop.  Do you think I’m smart?

Sent from my laptop. Do you think I think about myself too much?

Sent from heaven.

Sent from hell.

Sent from the outer reaches of the universe. Your problems are much smaller than you think they are.

Blog written at the intersection of 2nd and Folsom.

Blog written using a MacBook Pro at 4:18 PM PDT on 9/25/2013.

Blog written while wearing tennis shoes.

Blog written while wondering if this is too meta.

Message sent from Android. Don’t overthink it.

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You’re not from these parts are you

One of these things is not like the other

Brace yourselves. This might shock some of you.

I am not fluent in Arabic. It’s unbelievable, I know, and after 4 years of studying it no less. Moreover, I do not believe I will ever be “fluent” in Arabic. Though in the far future I may be able to consume the Arabic language perfectly through the mediums of reading and listening, I am completely certain that my language production will remain quite obviously non-native.

I dream of future self like this:

Native Arabic Speaker: “Hey you down for getting a bite to eat after we ditch this joint”

Me: “I think that a nice plan but first of all it is necessary for me to go to the house and get my knapsack since I have left her there.”

Despite my language short comings, I can still speak Arabic better than most infants, toddlers, and other foreigners. Therefore, I feel my Arabic studies cast in a particularly ironic light when someone, perhaps a toy shop employee, sees me, surmises that I am not Egyptian and instantly becomes mute, believing he cannot say one word to me unless he says it in English, a language in which he never progressed past “Welcome in Egypt.” He quickly determines that his only other option for communicating with me is through a complicated series of sounds, hand motions, and facial expressions that would be much simplified through the miracle of speech, which he has already ruled out.

Should I begin this mode of vocal communication by speaking in Arabic, the result is usually confusion, surprise, and then disbelief, sometimes with a swift return to hand motions and one word sentences. In the most depressing of cases, the person will not recognize that I’m speaking Arabic (albeit poorly) and will ask someone passing by if they speak English, and I’m standing there like an idiot thinking about my past four years of Arabic study, realizing it’s all led to this point of me being unable to find out where the spices are at the grocery store.

Here’s another example:

Man who comes to check the gas meter knocks on the door. I answer it. He notices I’m probably foreign, tipped off by the American flag I drape around myself at home. I’m speaking in Arabic, he’s speaking in English.

Me: Good morning.

Him: Good morning. (motions to his notebook) Gas.

Me: Please come in.

Him: (motioning with questioning signals, asking where the meter is)

Me: It’s in the kitchen.

Him: (goes into the kitchen, checks the meter, emerges) Eight pound.

Me: (I pay him and he gets ready to go) Goodbye

Him: Bye Bye

Of course, there are plenty of circumstances when I have wonderful conversations with people who are delighted to know that I can speak their mother tongue despite the fact they are slightly baffled that anyone would learn Arabic, saying

“Why? Why do you learn Arabic?” (I often ask myself the same question after every disaster similar to the spice search.)

But occasionally you meet a person who simply will not believe someone of my appearance could speak scribbly. Encountering this disbelief  is just another one of the joys of learning Arabic.

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