A mate and i pretended to be foreigners in our own country yesterday. We put on fake accents which conned enough local people, and went out for lunch. It was very interesting.

We were treated with a great deal more patience than i ever have been when just being me. The waiter was very attentive and spoke to us very clearly to ensure we understood. Communication between waitrons and patrons in this country is often rather fraught. Many of the permanent waiting staff in South Africa are black and do not have English as their first language. Most of the patrons in restaurants are, still, white people who at least have English as a strong second language if not first. (i do not know if this is statistically the case, but for me it certainly is empirically.)

And yet, despite our rather funny eastern bloc accents (who knows what we actually sounded like) we communicated perfectly easily with the waiter. He understood us, we understood him and everything was hunky dory.

 So why do white patrons and black waitrons so often seem to misunderstand each other? Are we being deliberately obtuse? Do we want to be misunderstood to prove some point? Is language a passive aggressive tool of dominance we use against each other?

 I don’t know the answer to these questions but i do wonder of societies with many languages active have these kinds of issues. Or is it just us, with our race/language mixture?

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