Miss Communicating

This American Gramma is struggling with communication.

Mostly I find the Kiwi vocabulary and accent fascinating. For the first few weeks I was constantly repeating words and phrases in my head, trying to figure out exactly what they were doing to common words like “you” (prolonged, 2-syllable,) “no” (also two syllables);
“seven” (seeven) and so on.

Generally I can understand one-to-one, face-to-face conversations. Sometimes. If two Kiwis are talking to each other and I am simply observing, I probably miss about half of what they are saying. In a group I’m hopeless. I can listen to a lecture or sermon and get most of it, but if a conversation gets lively, I’m lost.

Admittedly, some of the problem may be my hearing. (I’m going to have my hearing checked when I get home.)

There is also a lot of recognizable, though different, vocabulary: Nappies for diapers; cot for crib (crib actually refers to a cottage); pram for buggy; grizzly for cranky; bubs or bubby for baby. Boot for trunk; bonnet for hood; domes for snaps; bench for counters; and so on.

9ff0940551d2fafaaab17ec77e96bb1cTo make matters worse, a lot of place names are Māori (pronounced mo-ri with another rolled “r”.)  Although I am told Māori pronunciation rules are much more predictable than English, I can’t seem to master the rules. I know that “Wh” is pronounced “F” and “Ng” like our “ng”, but how does one say Mt Ngauruhoe? And then there is this town name, 55 letters long:

For that matter, it took me awhile to learn to say Charlotte’s middle name (Aroha) and I still don’t roll the “R” the way I should. Sounds like Are-oh-ha, which is acceptable, but not quite right. The rolled “r” can sound like an L, but not quite. I love that they chose a Maori middle name for their daughter, love its meaning, but I always have to pause and think before attempting to say it.

Years ago I spent a summer at a French camp in Quebec and found the experience of not understanding the language (in spite of 11 years of French classes!) very difficult. I could communicate enough to get by, but couldn’t really engage in meaningful conversations and I found that disheartening. I didn’t expect to experience that in English-speaking New Zealand. I’d noticed a bit of it when I visited the first time, but as a tourist, it didn’t bother me. It was more difficult when we spent a month here for Anne & James’ wedding and really wanted to understand all that was going on around us.

I was more prepared for it this time, but am still struggling with communication. In some settings, it doesn’t bother me at all; in others, I find myself close to tears. Mostly, I find a middle ground of catching what I can and guessing at the rest.



2 thoughts on “Miss Communicating

  1. Communication is important, no doubt about it.

    Trust things are going well with John and Lizzie with you now. Weather here has been wet, cold, and windy. Doesn’t feel like May. Supposedly things will improve slowly this week. Rick is planning to see Johnny this week now that the worst of J’s cold should be over.

    Wishing you a good week ahead. Where are the baby photos?!

  2. I have lived with the English- sounding words for much of my life time with sister Marilyn and Reg and her 5 kids. As for the hearing…that’s exactly my next plan. I must look into hearing aids. Bummer! love, Timmie H

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