As my days in this company turn into weeks turn into a month and I am no longer the newest person in the office because of a recent new hire I am really starting to settle in. When I call branches on the phone I’m greeted like an old friend and not like the new kid anymore. I’m starting to get into the swing of things and that’s why I’m getting worried that I’m going to be headed home soon. I know I’m only halfway finished but that means I only have four weeks left, a short amount of time in the scheme of things.
One of the main reasons why Ireland was my country of choice for the IIP program was that English is the main language spoken here. I knew that if I was going to be an intern at a company I wanted to be as capable linguistically as any intern who was from that country. I didn’t want to be some American intern that couldn’t do much because of the language barrier and was just there for the fun of it. In my internship I got exactly what I wanted and couldn’t be happier with my placement. With that being said however, just because we are saying the same words doesn’t always mean we are always speaking the same language. I mean this in two ways, in the context of what the words we are saying mean and, in the accent or pronunciation of those words.
First, as with all new cultures, there are differences in the meanings of words and the socially acceptable, and expected words to use. For instance I am currently working in my companies HR team, a part of that is dealing with the vacation days (which compared to the US there are a lot of them) and sick leave that people take throughout the year. If I were to refer to employee’s time off as “vacation days”, sure they might understand what I mean but I would be greeted with furrowed brows and the usual correction of “we just call it holiday.” Part of the challenge with a study abroad is judging whether or not you should alter your word choice to match the locals or if doing this would seem like acting and be off-putting to people. Immediately when I open my mouth people know I’m not from here. It is probably a mixture of what I say and how I say it but whenever I am talking to a local it is clear from the start that I am from America. Having grown up on Hollywood movies people here have a pretty good understanding in their mind of what an Americans sounds like, and when I open my mouth I fit right into that mold.
That is the first way, the second way is in the manner that we pronounce words. Of course there is the accent, the Irish brogue in other words. When face to face it is easily understandable. But add talking over the phone combined with a fast talker and you’ve got a recipe for trouble. I feel that I am speaking totally understandable, but of course so does the person I’ve asked to repeat themselves over and over again. At work this has become my co-workers favorite part of the day. When they get to overhear me struggling with an employee over the phone and help me piece together what they were talking about after I hang up. Its nice to know I am making an impact at the company when I hear someone on the other side of the line say, “Oh you must be the American, I’ll slow it down a bit for ya.”, although a bit patronizing it is definitely appreciated. Another problem with the pronunciation that I am having is with Irish names, mostly because the make absolutely no sense. I was so confident in the beginning. When I saw “Niamh” I pronounced it “ny-mh” like any rational person would. Until I was corrected and told the actual pronunciation is “neev”, because of course when you put a “m” and a “h” together you get a “v” sound. I think I must have missed that day of English class in high school. These little things are what remind me I’m not in Kansas anymore and keep me aware what a once in a lifetime experience, I am having. Every time I mispronounce a name or cant understand what someone is saying to me I’m reminded that I am living in Dublin, so no matter how awkward they might be sometimes those reminders are always welcome ffffffffff