Friday, September 01, 2006

Speaking My Language

I overheard this at lunch the other day. I couldn't help overhearing it because the people talking were sitting right next to me. But, I think it's a story I can share.

The woman telling the story had gone to the doctor's office after lunch the day before. She saw a black woman sitting in the waiting room looking very dejected and upset. While she waited, she heard the receptionist on the phone with someone, also getting upset. She was able to overhear enough to learn that the receptionist was trying to find out why a translator hadn't shown up who had promised to be there hours earlier. And that the woman who was sitting there had been sitting there for four hours.

The woman was called to see a doctor and while sitting in the examination room, she could hear that the woman had gone to the counter and was complaining in broken English that she was being ignored because she was South African, not American. The receptionist was trying to tell her that wasn't the case, but it wasn't getting through.

The woman telling the story pulled out her cell phone and called back to her office to talk to a colleague, to ask him if he could maybe translate. Well, he tells her that he's Ethiopian, not South African and that there are over 100 languages on the continent of Africa, but if she could find out what language the woman spoke, he might know someone in the office who spoke it.

She agreed, hung up and talked to the receptionist who went back to the waiting area and then came back with a word on a slip of paper. I can't remember the name now, but she called the colleague back and he started laughing when she told him the language.

It turns out that it had been the language he learned growing up. So she handed the cell phone to the receptionist and she and the woman in the waiting room passed it back and forth, the colleague acting as the translator.

But if that's where the story ended, it'd be a nice little story.

It turns out this colleague had been talking to his wife an hour earlier, lamenting that he never had a chance to speak in the language he grew up using. He wondered if he would even still remember it if he had the chance to use it. His wife said she'd pray for him.

Now, the colleague and his wife are going to go visit the woman from the doctor's office and it may even be an opportunity to witness to her.

I thought that was a pretty cool story to overhear.
Post a Comment