Author Topic: Assumptions and Language  (Read 5286 times)

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fountainsoflettuce

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Assumptions and Language
« on: October 25, 2012, 10:33:46 AM »
I was recently buying quartz for a kitchen remodel and the supplier was located in a section of town with a large Russian and Eastern European population.  On occasion, the actual supplier (not the sales person but the actual guy who traveled overseas to obtain the quartz and did the fabrication but who was *not* the owner), would answer my questions with "Da."  One of my majors in college was Russian.  When we finished negotiation, I said thank you to him in Russian.  He gave me a strange look and said, "I am not Russian, I am Albanian."    Um, yeah.  I'm sure the look on my face was that of confusion.  But I apologized for assuming he was Russian.

I was probably rude for assuming he was Russian or spoke Russian, correct?  Even if he answered my questions with "Da"?   And understood what I said in Russian? 

Sharnita

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2012, 10:39:06 AM »
I don't think you were rude but I think that when you live in a ________ community it is common to pick up a word or two and use them without realizing it.  I grew up in a German-American community (and am actually German among other things) but never learned to speak German.  There are a few German words that have crept into my speech, however, and once in a while I drop a random word in without even knowing it.

WillyNilly

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2012, 10:39:19 AM »
I have no idea what "da" means (yes?  no? ummm?) so I think if he was openly speaking to you in another language, its totally fair game for you to respond in kind.  He made the assumption first by assuming you'd know what he meant with "da".  You simply assumed he was open to conversing in that language.  his assumption was first, so your follow-up assumption wasn't rude at all IMO.

Jones

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2012, 10:42:34 AM »
"Da" means "yes" in Russian. I, too, if conversing with someone I didn't know, would assume he spoke Russian if he used the word "da" regularly. Especially if he had a foreign accent that sounded similar to a Russian accent.

Zilla

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2012, 10:52:21 AM »
He could also be saying Ya, which sounds similar.  I don't think you were rude though and might have answered, "Oh I am sorry, with you saying Da, yes in Russian, I thought you spoke Russian" 
But I have to say, I have a Spanish last name.  And so many people think I speak Spanish and will talk to me in Spanish.  I have to tell them that I don't speak Spanish which leads to a discussion on why.  I personally would stick with English but that is strictly based on my experience.  I do not think people are rude for doing it but for the only reason to avoid the assumption.

jmarvellous

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2012, 11:04:57 AM »
Eastern Europe has a lot of vaguely similar languages, so assuming he was Russian, while hardly offensive, was probably a decent leap.

Just looking quickly at Google Translate, "da" is also "yes" in Ukrainian, Serbian, Bulgarian, and possibly others, and is also similar to the widely used "ja." Albanian "yes" is different, but it's possibly colloquial or casual.


Still not rude to offer your thanks, though I might stick to English from now on.

GratefulMaria

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2012, 12:24:36 PM »
I was taking a community ed class in a non-Slavic foreign language.  One of the students from Ukraine, and another student persisted in referring to her as Russian despite being calmly but consistently corrected.

My first language was a Slavic language, and it's surreal hearing similar ones because I'm just-this-close to understanding them.  I don't think you were rude.  And you certainly handled it gracefully when he pointed out the error. 

BeagleMommy

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2012, 01:00:32 PM »
OP, I don't think you were rude.  Many Eastern European/Slavic languages have identical/similar words. Differentiating among them is difficult.  Also, many Slavic countries speak Russian in addition to their native language (I know my Polish grandparents did).

When he said he was Albanian, and not Russian, you could have just responded with an acknowledgement (but not an apology - after all you can't tell by looking at him).

Raintree

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2012, 03:20:10 PM »
I wouldn't worry about it. He probably was just making a minor correction.

I went into a Greek supermarket in a Greek section of town (but plenty of non-Greeks go in there too) and the woman behind the counter started talking to me in Greek. I have been told before that I look like I could be Greek, so I just said, "Pardon?" (I wasn't sure if she was speaking in Greek or it was English with a thick accent). She said, "Oh sorry, I thought you were Greek. No harm at all and I wasn't offended.

Danika

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2012, 11:21:42 PM »
I don't think you were rude. I've been in similar situations and when I've guessed correctly, the person was really pleasantly surprised. For example, I was in Carmel, CA and in an art store and the owner had a Slavic accent of some sort. I noticed his business card on the counter and his last name looked  Serbian or Croatian. As I was leaving, I told him "hvala" which is one of the few words I know (thank you) and he smiled and laughed and was so happy that I guessed his language. So in some cases, they're really happy and pleased.

You could always err on the safe side and only ever use English, but I think it's fun to learn other words in other languages. Most of the time, I learn something new and have interesting conversations so I don't want to always be *so* safe that I never get to experience things like the smile on the guy's face that I mentioned above.

SpikeMichigan

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2012, 07:57:44 AM »

 Since you apologised for the mix-up, you're fine.

 Unless he was clearly annoyed, he might well have just been correcting you so as to stop you trying to converse with him in Russian when he would likely not have been able to.

magician5

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2012, 09:38:12 AM »
You'll never believe - someone came up to me the other day and spoke to me in English! I told him "I'm not from England, I'm from right here in Virginia." But I wasn't offended.

Seriously, I stopped trying to use my very little command of languages when I was at a sushi bar, trying out my few newly-learned phrases in "sushi Japanese", and found myself slipping into Spanish. "Futomaki and tempura maki, dozo? Si, gracias." Bad idea.
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rose red

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #12 on: October 26, 2012, 09:53:31 AM »
You'll never believe - someone came up to me the other day and spoke to me in English! I told him "I'm not from England, I'm from right here in Virginia." But I wasn't offended.

I'm not understanding  :-[.  Do you mean he was an American talking to you in a British accent?

Lynda_34

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #13 on: October 26, 2012, 11:22:15 AM »

Seriously, I stopped trying to use my very little command of languages when I was at a sushi bar, trying out my few newly-learned phrases in "sushi Japanese", and found myself slipping into Spanish. "Futomaki and tempura maki, dozo? Si, gracias." Bad idea.
[/quote]

I have that same problem.  I spend some time in Haiti and try to remember my high school French and I also keep slipping into Spanish, which I'm not good in either but have spoken more of it because I worked where there were a lot of Spanish speaking people.

Minmom3

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Re: Assumptions and Language
« Reply #14 on: October 26, 2012, 01:06:18 PM »
I don't think you were rude. I've been in similar situations and when I've guessed correctly, the person was really pleasantly surprised. For example, I was in Carmel, CA and in an art store and the owner had a Slavic accent of some sort. I noticed his business card on the counter and his last name looked  Serbian or Croatian. As I was leaving, I told him "hvala" which is one of the few words I know (thank you) and he smiled and laughed and was so happy that I guessed his language. So in some cases, they're really happy and pleased.

You could always err on the safe side and only ever use English, but I think it's fun to learn other words in other languages. Most of the time, I learn something new and have interesting conversations so I don't want to always be *so* safe that I never get to experience things like the smile on the guy's face that I mentioned above.

And sometimes, they're scared spitless!  DH was riding public transport one time back in the early '80's, and heard 2 men speaking Russian.  Train was crowded, DH's Russian was even then nearly gone (from college, about 8 years prior), but he knew Russian when he heard it, even if he didn't understand every last detail of their conversation.  He had to ask them to let him by when it was time for him to get off the train, and he did it in Russian, and then said thank you.  He said the look of absolute terror on their faces was at once very sad, as we were in San Francisco at the time.  Quite far from the USSR, and DH certainly meant nothing bad by speaking to them in Russian, it was just fun for him to exercise his fading language skills.
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