Friday, June 19, 2009

Gestures Are Not Universal!

So something just occurred to me.

The other day I was at my favorite coffeehouse (Bauhaus on East Pine and Melrose) where they know my name, my coffee drink (short americano with the less-hot water and room), my boyfriend's coffee drink, where I live, etcetera.

I was standing in line when the barista saw me in line without my boyfriend, and asked, "The regular?" I nodded and held up two fingers. She questioned it but I again nodded.

They served me TWO short americanos. I was baffled, because I thought I had clearly ordered both my coffee drink and my boyfriend's.

I had been thinking and gesturing in Spanish, when "los dos" ("the two," literally) means "both." Instead what I had done by holding up two fingers to non-Latinos was say "Yes, my regular, TWO of them." At the time, I was baffled that they didn't automatically get what I meant.

It just now dawned on me that I had been thinking in Spanish and communicating to non-Latinos, so the message encoding-decoding process was all wrong.

Who's your audience? If you don't know your audience, don't assume your message will be understood the way you mean it.

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