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Some outsource centers are providing language classes for their technical support people overseas. Classes designed specifically to refine their speech to sound more Americanized,. This was done in response to complaints from customers finding it difficult to communicate with support personnel with heavy foreign accents particularly on questions of a technical nature. To add another layer to the cake, the classes also provide different nuances in their speech instruction. For example, a y’all or two might be thrown in for those wanting to sound like they hail south of the Maxon Dixon line or some broad “a’s” for the east coast citizens. Could be the gentlemen with the pleasant southern drawl introducing himself as Dwayne actually may sign his checks as Muhammad Singh. At times I have found it extremely difficult myself to get my point across on these phone calls and to understand what are saying in response.

No matter how frustrating, language always fascinates me. English is my only fluent language. I’m saddened to see it fall by the wayside. “Conversing” has been replaced by “conversating”.  “I seen it” has eclipsed “I saw it”.  Ach.  I took four years of Spanish in high school. At one time I was able to speak and understand it quite well. Technical Spanish was taught where I attended school. Conversational would have proved more helpful. Standing on a street corner in Baliz “Donde ala biblioteca?” isn’t going to do you much good unless the man you’re speaking to actually knows where the library is and you are really interested in going there. French came along in college. I took one semester and found it didn’t come as easily for me as Spanish. People assume if you’re from Canada you speak French.  French is the second language of the country, and certainly would be your first if you resided in Quebec I would suspect. I’ve traveled to Quebec on several occasions. Particularly in the country areas if you speak poor French it is not well received by the locals. On several occasions while trying to communicate with a sales clerk I was sure they understood exactly what I was saying but were so appalled by how I was saying it they pretended not to.

When visiting Rick’s Mother in Paris before her passing, she commented people in “the colonies” (French Canadians) don’t speak true French. Canadian French is old French, if memory serves. I wouldn’t have argued that point with Labiba.  Born in Egypt, she was truly a French woman at heart. Paris would have been far more confusing for me without the two of each speaking the language like natives. Labiba had been an interpreter for the U.N. in her younger years, French to English.  Her English was spoken with a hint of French and Arabic as is Rick’s. At her apartment I was introduced to a young Frenchman nicknamed affectionately Ooh-la-la for his penchant for punctuating his sentences with the same. Charm oozed literally out of this boys pores. Had he told me a flock of sea gulls had deposited their lunch all over my rental car I would have been nothing less than enchanted. The French speak with their bodies as well as their mouths, moving their arms and gesturing as the words flow. This is true of the Greeks and Italians as well I believe. My girlfriend who is from a lively Italian family would be unable to communicate if I tied her hands behind her back.

If you are exposed to different types of speech for long periods of time it is likely you will adopt some of the peculiarities in your own speech patterns. After living in Arkansas and Alabama for a year or so the “you’re not from around here’s” came less often as my speech drifted into their speech zone. Looking back I always had trouble with the y’all’s. There are guidelines for saying y’all that never became completely clear to me.

When living in Massachusetts it wasn’t long before their use of the broad “A” became noticeable when I was speaking. My mother kept asking me if I had a cold. I learned that “Chuck Rivah” made reference to the Charles River where I used to stop on my way to work in the morning to watch the rowers glide seamlessly through the glassy water.  “Regulah” coffee meant you liked cream and sugar in yours. If you were going “down sellah” you were likely headed for the basement.  Rain, which came down often in buckets there, might be said to be “coming down like a bastard’. By the time we returned to California after three years on the east coast people here were asking me if I hailed from the east originally. Funny.

Canada is not immune to language differences. Arriving in Southern California I still said serviette when referring to a table napkin and toe-maatoe when asking for one in my salad. To me toe-mayto referred to a woman. Back in Nova Scotia for a wedding some years ago I ran into several men from Newfoundland. At first I thought they were speaking to me in a foreign dialect rather than English. From what I understand their particular manner of speaking is partially attributed to their Gaelic roots. When saying hello they might come up with “Whaddaya at?” “Stay where you’re at ’til I comes where you’re to,” might be translated as “Stay where you are until I arrive.” I just nodded and smiled hoping I wasn’t agreeing to anything I didn’t want to sign up for.

All in all it’s fascinating how we communicate, at least for this writer.

Totally off subject, one of the gentlemen I volunteer with at the food ministry told me in conversation last week he was diabetic. As it happens Rick is as well. However his is well controlled by diet. At any rate, during the conversation this man mentioned using okra water to manage his sugar levels. Really? I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, but it was  first for me. Researching a little further I found a number of articles on the Internet discussing the same subject. Who knew? There are as with most discussions people sitting on both sides of the fence but it is an interesting concept and natural at that. Since it certainly couldn’t hurt I will give it a shot.  According to my source he cuts the ends of an okra. Drops it in an 8 oz. glass of water and soaks it overnight. In the morning the vegetable is discarded and you drink the water. Anyhow, my unusual bits of information for the day.

 Garlic and Parmesan Oven Fries

3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/2″ sticks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. chopped chives
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Spray cookie sheet with cookie spray. Slice potatoes and drop into ice water for 1/2 hour. Remove from water and pat dry with towel.

Toss with oil, garlic, chives, and red pepper flakes. Spread in single layer on cookie sheet. Bake for 25 mins. turning once.

Remove from oven and toss with cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired.

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 Tbsp. chives
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. honey
1/2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Whisk all ingredients together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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