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Eduling Tiny Lesson: Miscommunication


We are sharing another Tiny Lesson, which will appear on the Eduling Speak app soon. In the mean time, enjoy reading it here.


When you travel to a new place, speak another language, or talk to someone of a different background, miscommunication happens. It’s nothing out of the ordinary and can be funny when you look back at your experience. In today’s tiny lesson, you will hear three miscommunication stories that international students in the U.S. share and advice on how to handle situations like this.


1. “Do you have a nail file?” Not knowing what a nail file was, Rion was confused and didn’t know how to respond to her roommate’s request. After asking for a repetition, she still didn’t know what was asked of her. The roommate said, “It’s okay” and gave up asking. Rion felt embarrassed about her English ability. A nail file is something you use after trimming your nail to smooth them off. It is common in the U.S., but students from other countries may never learn the word in English if it doesn’t appear in a book or materials they encounter. This is an example of something that you may only learn when you use English daily. When a situation like this occurs, the key is patience from both sides when communicating. You may ask for clarification when you don’t understand, but be specific with your request for clarification. You may say: Sorry, I don’t know the last word you just said.


2. “See you at the café next Friday.” Mia made an appointment to go to a café with a girl she just met in her apartment building. She showed up at the café at the agreed time on Friday only to return home in disappointment because her friend did not show up. As it turned out, her friend meant the Friday in the following week, not the very next Friday after their conversation on Tuesday that week. Misunderstanding with dates and time is very common. When making an appointment, it’s good to confirm the exact date (the month and day) of the appointment.


3. “Here or to go?” asked the server at a fast food restaurant. “No, I don’t want to eat here,” answered Carola.

“So you want to go?”

“No, but I’m not eating here.”

“So you want to go?”

“No, but I’m not eating here.”

The conversation kept going on for a while with both the restaurant employee and Carola frustrated without knowing what the misunderstanding was. Restaurant staff, especially in certain fast food franchises, have a specific way of asking questions and expect to hear a specific response. In this conversation, “here” means eating inside the restaurant, which Carola didn’t want to do. “To go” means to take the food out and eat somewhere. The server wanted Carola to choose either “here” or “to go,” but Carola didn’t. Finally, the misunderstanding was resolved when her friend got back from the bathroom and told Carola to just say “to go.” It was a frustrating and funny misunderstanding indeed. When ordering food, you may be asked to choose between here or to go, pick-up or delivery, dine-in or take-out. Knowing these phrases may help you to avoid Carola’s situation.


As mentioned earlier in this lesson, miscommunication like this occurs all the time. Respect, patience, and kindness in these situations are usually the key for all parties. I hope you like these stories, and remember to check out other tiny lessons.


You may download the Eduling Speak app here. Listen to the screen recording of the lesson on our YouTube here. Share with us your own miscommunication stories in the comment!

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