Original photo courtesy of Mary Kearns at

(This post was published accidentally about a week ago before it was complete.  The mistake was quickly corrected, but some people got a 404 error as a result.  Sorry for the confusion!  Here it is in its finished state.)

Without language, we strip human interaction down to it’s most basic. I find I learn a lot about people based on how they react to my shades of broken Portuguese. It has become my a Rorschach-test of first impressions.

Rabbit in headlights. This person freezes at the first mispronounces word. They haven’t ever encountered this before, and they’re not quite sure what to do next. This person usually presents one of the next two personality types.

Queen of Hearts. This person assumes that lack of language equates to lack of intelligence. This person’s responses are typified by a raised voice, overly simplified or patronizing questions, and a general impatience for the whole process. Conversations are usually cut short, normally turning to any other individual in the room to answer rather than try to deal with the language-limited person.

White Rabbit. While less aggressive than the Queens of Hearts, these individuals also exhibit very limited patience for conversation and often wander away to do something else, apparently much more important, than listen to the language-limited try to finish their sentence.

Hypnotist’s assistant. This well-intentioned sort works hard to not draw attention to the fact that they didn’t understand a word you just said. Conversations with this person are marked by glazed eyes, a nodding head, and off-topic and/or neutral responses.

The Joker. This type finds great humor in the broken phrases and off-kilter wordings. They often joke publicly about how they “don’t understand a word” of what the language-limited person says, usually in their presence as a way of including them the laughs. Haha. Incidentally, if you ever want to humiliate and shut up a language-limited person you should try this very effective and time-tested method.

Indiana Jones. Detectives of the best sort, these curious individuals enjoy the roads less traveled and are happy to encounter new and unexpected linguistic constructions. They will talk with you at length and think nothing of periodic references to your pocket dictionary. Some of them may even ask to borrow it for their own satchel of tricks.

There’s something agonizing about being ashamed of the words that come out of your mouth. It’s not like you can stop speaking (at least I can’t). Especially when you would give almost anything for them to be more polished. On the flip side, the sense of accomplishment once you blunder through to comprehension is euphoric. While life would be nicer if it were filled with Indiana Jones and Hypnotist’s Assistants, I’ll admit that it is the Queen of Hearts and White Rabbits that inspire me to study Portuguese daily. I guess this world needs all kinds of people.

Never miss a crônica!

Subscribe to get the latest content by e-mail.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Speak Your Mind