26 October 2008

Date #8: Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow (no breakup, just another business trip)

Mr. Coffee and I were supposed to get together on Friday, but we totally got our signals crossed.

I am a Language Professional. I have a lot of experience living in places where the predominant language spoken is not my first language, and, on the flip side, I have a lot of experience speaking English with people whose native language is something else. In my professional opinion, the crossed signals Mr. Coffee and I experienced were a function of Linguistic Breakdown. I outlined our plans in a way that seemed perfectly clear (to me) in e-mail; he read the message both inattentively (busy at work, not much of a written communicator) and filtered through two other languages before he got to English. VoilĂ : suddenly he thought I was coming to him and I thought he was coming to me and it just didn't happen.

I notice this kind of thing often in our communication; for example, I'll ask him a question, and his answer will give away that he's understood something subtly different. I think some people might write it off as him not being a good listener, but from my own experience and from our interaction, I know he's listening. His English is excellent, but it's not perfect. It's a language thing. It happens more on the phone and over e-mail and less when we talk face to face, which is a giveaway to me that it's linguistic.

John and I actually used to get into debates about this in regards to his parents. When John spoke to his parents, they spoke Korean and John answered in English. I always felt like there were times when they had Linguistic Breakdown, and either John didn't totally understand the Korean or his mom or dad didn't totally understand the English, or both, and suddenly they would be talking about the same subject but missing each other's points. John maintained that his parents weren't listening, but based on my own English-English conversations with his parents, I don't think it was that. They were listening as hard as they could, but sometimes, they missed stuff. Neither of them really learned to speak English until they were adults. Their English is excellent, but this language stuff can be sneaky. The same is true for Mr. Coffee. He didn't really learn English in a practical way until he came to the U.S. in his mid-twenties. He's at a disadvantage.

The bottom line is that Linguistic Breakdowns can be frustrating, but I am very forgiving of them. Also: I think Mr. Coffee and I should speak more French, a second language for both of us, which would put us on equal footing and be sexy to boot.

Anyway. I'm two glasses of wine and a lot of good sex into my night, so I'm having a hard time keeping track of my point. Here it is: Mr. Coffee and I had Date #8 tonight, Sunday, instead of Friday.

He got here in time to see Maddie and Riley before they went to bed. They were both very excited to see him, and he was equally pleased to see them. I like that he makes a point to come over when they are still up. He could just as easily wait until they went to bed, but he makes sure to get here in time to spend a bit of time with them; we're usually getting home from being out and about with friends, and the twins enjoy telling him about our adventures and day. Maddie wanted him to join us for story time, but Riley wasn't quite ready for that. Maybe next time.

After the kids were in bed, Mr. Coffee and I spent some good time getting caught up on our weeks (both of us were very busy) over some wine and snacks. Then we did less talking and more, um, yeah.

He leaves on Tuesday for a nearly two-week trip. Grr. He's more frustrated about it than I am in the sense that he's sick of the work travel; it's fun for a while, but then it just gets old. He's at the point where it's old. He misses his kids. He misses me, or so he says, and I believe him. His travel schedule looks calmer over the holidays, which is something to look forward to, although the twins and I are away for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I didn't go for any Relationship Talk tonight. I feel like it's something I need to do, but tonight my need for a night off trumped that. It was delightful, just what I needed. I predict that I will sleep well.

Now it's nose to the grindstone for the next two weeks while Mr. Coffee is away. Good lord, I need to exercise and take care of some stuff around the house. For now, though, I need to sleep.

As an aside, I wish I dreamed about people I know well. I usually dream about people I know, but wish I knew better. For example, recently, I had an awesome dream about a guy I had a crush on in high school, and I frequently dream about people I've met and think would make great friends. I'd love to have a dream about John, but I can almost guarantee I never will. And as I fall asleep tonight, I'd love to have a dream about Mr. Coffee. Alas, although we haven't known each other very long, we already know each other too well for that to happen.


Melissa in TN said...

I'm so glad you got the conversation repaired so you could have date number eight. It was sweet that he wanted to see your kiddos. I'm liking him more and more.

Melissa in TN said...

Not that I haven't liked him from the beginning (see more potential for misundersanding in a conversation...) I think he has potential.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you about the language issues. I have a co-worker who is from Colombia, and although his English is excellent, those small missed connections seem to happen frequently.

Also - I spent time last summer in Spain at a program for Spaniards to improve their English language skills. The participants (mostly business men and women) were tested thoroughly before they were accepted into the program - they were identified as advanced English speakers - but the common English expressions and idioms we use without much thought were a mystery to almost all of them.

And as crazy as it sounds, when I had to explain those common expressions and idioms, I found myself often stumped as to exactly what the origins are.

Glad you're taking care of yourself - hope you keep having fun!

... leslie

Legally Brunette said...

Hmm...I generally imagine Mr. Coffee with a South African accent, but since he did not learn English in the practical sense until he moved here in his 20's, I'm going to rule that nationality out. It's going to be hard to erase that from my head, but I will deal! Would you give a little hint as to the continent or perhaps the hemisphere where Mr. Coffee grew up?

So glad you had a great date no. 8!

Watercolor said...

I was afraid from your post caption this was a breakup post. Glad to see it is simply reflective and you had a good night. And glad things continue to go well.

Rachel said...

Glad you had a good date.

The linguistic analysis is thought-provoking. I see a lot of those weird miscommunications every day. I also think culture and language are so intertwined that sometimes it's hard to discern whether the issue is cultural or linguistic. (An example: the hierarchy in Korean v. the faux-egalitarianism in American English.)

Hope the conversation goes well.

Alexis said...

I too was afraid this was a break-up post! Glad you managed to still get together!
This did rule out my original accent guess - I was going with Scottish (rowr!) - and then almost immediately axed my follow-up guess: French.

Lisa said...

N learned English at around 19, about when I met him 15 years ago. And his English is so much better now. But, yeah, every once in awhile there are still misses and they are usually idioms and expressions. Also, I tease him about talking corporate, but I think he learned a lot of English from working in corporations. He says that in his native language, Swedish, he can't talk corporate at all and instead in stuck in talking teenager slang because that is where he left it back then. But it is a dead give-away when in-person communication goes so much better than phone. You have all those visual cues to help you along.

Glad the date went well. I, too, thought the title suggested a break-up. Sucks about the travel. Does he have "travel seasons" or is it pretty much full-time, nonstop?

Lals said...


Though you likely didn't intend it, your post made me laugh out loud. Like Mr. Coffee, my BF/Special-Friend/Whatever...(we haven't defined it either!) is a non-native English speaker. And even though his English is excellent, we too have had similar Linguistic Breakdowns. (We each speak the other's native tongue as our 3rd language, so we often switch back and forth between the two, which tends to a bit more confusion.) We also both speak French as a second language. I highly recommend speaking French! It's a fabulous way of communicating on many different levels! :)

So glad you enjoyed Date #8.

((Big Hugs!))

Single Parent Dad said...

I used to speak to a lot of folks from continental Europe, and while many of them spoke English everyday, sometimes you needed to be face to face to avoid these confusions.

Also I'm with you on the dreams. I do dream about Sam, but not very often, Max is often missing from my night thoughts too.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

My life in Paris is all about Linguistic Breakdown.

OK, that's an exaggeration. But it is a part of most days.

I've lived in France five years now and I speak French well, so when I misunderstand something or am misunderstood it is rarely because of the basic vocabulary-and-grammar mechanics of the language. It's more subtle: the words that don't QUITE mean the same thing, with a close but stronger or weaker meaning. Or the whole cultural subtext that I miss because That Just Isn't The Way We Do Things Back Home. Of course, sometimes I do just completely miss something someone said to me, or pronounce some word with an R or a U so badly that people give me that "huh?" look, but it is rarer.

My husband is French and even though we speak each others' languages fluently, we still experience Linguistic Breakdown from time to time.

For instance, it took me a few years to figure out that he pronounces "hungry" and "angry" more or less the same way. Wow, did THAT lead to some surreal conversations!

All in all, I'm glad I have an American accent, because if there's something in my day to day life here that I miss, everyone immediately knows why.

And I suppose it is nosy to guess, but I'm thinking Mr. Coffee is Swiss.

Kim said...

Sounds like you are in lurve already. Living in Germany I am faced with language misunderstandings all of the time. I was even told once that my English is bridge English - which I have normal English but have adjusted it over time so Germans can understand it easier. I notice that even if you know you are saying the right word, a slight accent can leave people without a clue what you are talking about.

amber said...

very interesting post. bummer that he is away for two weeks, but i'm sure you'll be looking forward to a sweet reunion. ;)

i vote for speaking french. i, personally, don't understand a lick of it, but you're right about the sexy part!

Kerrie said...

Agreed with the cultural missed connections, they are like tiny little synapses misfiring but boy, oh boy they can make life difficult. English is such a damned difficult language to learn, so many "rules" and nuances, so many ways to pronounce each letter...I love Indonesian, each letter in a word is pronounced, each letter has only one sound. Easy.

Mr. C. gets better and better...I love that he misses you.

Ms. Hedda said...

I've been following along intently , enjoying your romance. :-) It's great to hear the fella has met the kidlets and that they like him. Kids are ridiculously intuitive about people - especially folks who enter "their" territory in the company of beloved mom or dad. If they had doubts about Mr. C, you'd know it!

(I'm a stepmom who made it through the kid-approval process unscathed, but when the kids' mom was dating -- and she was careful and discriminating -- they made it obvious when she was seeing someone who wasn't a good fit. Sure enough, when the kids didn't feel comfortable, the new datee turned out to be a dud for mom, too.)

Mama Nabi said...

Aw... it does say a lot about a guy who genuinely enjoys the company of your babes. I've had guys who "show" interest but... not really.

I wonder how much of linguistic breakdown I might be having... not so much in fluency but in the fact that we did most of our discovery via blogging and emails and chats - I'm mostly sarcastic and that seems to be the hardest thing to convey with words. (besides adding, "am being sarcastic, btw")

I'm also inclined to think he's European...? You will have to tell me!! I've noticed a vast difference in sensibilities (in general) between U.S. and European men... hm... Wine and... you know... excellent! Really. :-)

twangy said...

Meaning being lost in translation is very familiar to me, after various stints in Italy. That disconnect itself reveals a lot about how language frames culture.. It's really interesting. For instance, as an Irish person living in New Jersey I would occasionally find myself in situations where I understood every single word that was being said, (as one might expect, we were native speakers, after all) but, somehow, mysteriously, the overall meaning was lost to me.
So I hope my meaning is clear when I say how thrilled I am to hear you're having so much fun with Mr C. ;)
Enjoy every minute.

shmo said...

Hearing you talk about your in-laws' issues with John and the times when they all ended up saying basically the same thing made me think of a term that my husband and I have come up with for just such a situation: "violent agreement." (For use when we realize that we're disagreeing about something and finally realize we're actually saying the same thing to each other.) I also had to address the accent issue - you haven't come right out and said it, but I know, deep down, that he's from Arkansas like me, right??? (hee!)

Anonymous said...

After your husband's death, did you have nightmares?

Although it's been months since my lovely wife died, I still have bad nightmares at least three times a week and wake up in a sweat.....actually, I don't sleep that much anymore, my job keeping me up for days at a time.

I've discovered the wonders of Ambien.


Anonymous said...

I agree. . . relationship French is very sexy. I suspect that my students would be more motivated if I shared that information, but I'd get lots of parent phone calls for telling that to seventh graders! :)