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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Slow Down

Early in life, whenever this monolingual blogger encountered someone speaking Spanish, my initial thought frequently was "Why do they speak so fast?" I don't expect anyone to admit having similar thoughts. Nowadays, our fear of being labelled culturally insensitive mutes many harmless but useful conversations. However, I'm reasonably certain my early-in-life experience is not unique.

Over the ensuing years, having been regularly exposed to many people speaking languages other than English, I grew complacent, thinking I'd transcended my immature thoughts about language and speed. It took my first visit to Greece to temporarily upend that complacency.

* As the Greek Orthodox priest spoke the wedding vows, I thought "Slow down! No wait, it's really hot here in the Greek sun and my maid of honor daughter looks like she might faint so hurry up." But honestly, I'm not sure it would be humanly possible to speak any faster than that priest.
* Most of the unintelligible conversations swirling around me initially reminded me of those tape recorders that allow a listener to increase the speed of speech. Remember the Chipmunks when they warbled Christmas carols? Slackers compared to many people I listened to over the past two weeks.

Of course, as soon as I began listening to my conversations with others in English, imagining how our cadences might sound to non-English speaking folks, it didn't take long to realize I'd devolved. I started thinking about those Catholic priests with their rapid fire Latin and my sister, whose speed of speech has been known to create spontaneous combustion. I'm aiming to retain this perspective on my next visit to a place where English is not the default. At the same time, I'm coaching myself to slow down my own speech. Why the rush?

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