My husband is Egyptian. My in-laws were born in Egypt and spent half of their lives living there. They moved to the US in their early 40’s and while my mother-in-law learned English very well, it was much harder for my father-in-law. Throughout their lives in the US they continued to have difficulty enunciating words in the English language.
Many years back we had a wonderful Australian Shepherd dog named Quigglie. My mother-in-law fell in love with her and thought she was just wonderful which surprised me because in Egypt animals are considered property more than members of the family. Whenever my mother-in-law would try to say Quigglie’s name it came out “Galiggigally.” She would try over and over again after we said “Quigglie” very slowly and carefully, but it always came out “Galiggigally.”
Early on in my marriage, I used to panic a little if my husband left me alone with my in-laws, especially my father-in-law in case one of them said something I couldn’t understand. Here are a few examples.
“Leen, do you have any tomsums?” one of them would ask me.
Ten minutes and a lot of discussion would go by before I figured out they wanted some Tums for an upset stomach.
Every year on my birthday, they would sing “habby birsday” (happy birthday), to me.
Sometimes we understood the words they said, but when they used them incorrectly it could cause some serious miscommunication and it wasn't funny-until we figured out what they really meant.
For years I would take offense every time one of them would say “too” anything. It just sounded so critical.
“Galiggigally is too big.” “That’s too much.” “She’s too tall.”
Come to find out, years later, “too” to them just meant very or a lot. Oops!
“Galiggigally it very big.” “That’s a lot.” “She’s very tall.” Much different.
Those of us who married into the family eventually learned what they were trying to say and communication was much easier. All in all, we were left with some great stories about misinterpreted words and phrases and the laughter and learning that resulted.
Talking to people who speak a different language has been an on-going problem throughout history. The Bible even talks about it what happened when people spoke differently than their neighbors. Fortunately, we've come a long way since Jephthah captured the tribe of Ephraim.
Jephthah captured the shallows of the Jordan, and whenever a fugitive from Ephraim tried to go back across, the men of Gilead would challenge him. “Are you a member of the tribe of Ephraim?” they would ask. If the man said, “No, I’m not,” they would tell him to say “Shibboleth.” If he was from Ephraim, he would say “Sibboleth,” because people from Ephraim cannot pronounce the word correctly. –Judges 12:5-6 (NLT)
With God, we don’t have to worry about those kinds of misunderstandings. God speaks to us through His word in the Bible. Our job is to read, study, memorize and spend time with Him and when we do this His message is exceedingly clear.
A common mistake for some of us Christians is to take the easy way out and shirk our responsibilities. We rely on our own understanding rather than on God’s Word and Truth. The result is that we don’t understand the message and we can easily be deceived, much like I was when I heard my in-laws say “too much”.
Our own deception can lead us to think we are “hearing a message from God” when in reality, we are hearing what we want to hear, and we miss the truth. God speaks our language when we listen and obey.
The same is true of our communication with people. If we aren't living godly lives, it will show in our communication with others. In essence we would be speaking with our own diacritic that could lead others astray.
Hearing people from other cultures speak with a different type of pronunciation can be fun, but it’s even better when we take the time to understand what someone (especially God) is really saying.
Authors note: For fun, visit the following website to see if you have an “American accent” in any of the several regions of the United States. Apparently I have a North Central accent. I am not sure if that is accurate, but it was kind of fun. http://www.gotoquiz.com/what_american_accent_do_you_have
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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