In between this year’s Christmas dinner conversations, our friends and I kept referring to many funny videos we had all seen in the past regarding language misunderstanding. All of our guests, minus my husband, are language teachers. However, living in Europe allows my husband to inadvertently be a language teacher amongst his friends and colleagues.
The first video we discussed was about the Danish language, and how no one understands each other in Denmark, so this is how they cope:
The next video stars a young Simon Pegg and the Big Train comedy sketch team who create a funny sketch about asking if people speak English in France. Ultimately however, I think this could be applied to many a people traveling throughout the world attempting to speak English (or even another language as is attempted in the video here) and kindly (not rudely) asking for assistance:
Following along the French theme, the next video comes from the amazingly hilarious HBO show, “Flight of the Concords“, which ran on the Home Box Office network from 2007-2009. Many people were saddened by the ending of the show, myself included, but I think the creators thought it was better to go out while ahead then to beat a dead horse:
The final two videos are potentially offensive, but are also still along the line of misunderstandings in communication:
The penultimate video we discussed is provided by Fonejacker, from around 2006. The show ran on British television from 2006 to 2008. In this clip, a man prank calls an electrical store. It is funny because of what he calls DVDs and DVD players: “Doovdé” and the misunderstanding that ensues. I think what situations like this show, is not how the speaker mispronouncing the words is unable to speak properly in the target language, but rather how the listener is unable to understand and thus shows their lack of international exposure.
The final video is provided to us by Catherine Tate, who I find can be incredibly funny – or not. It may depend on my mood, or her attempt at being particularly funny. I am not quite sure. Ultimately however, I was very happy with her run as Donna Noble on Doctor Who (from the Christmas Special in 2007 to a full-season run in 2008). In the video below she plays an ‘offensive translator’.
I understand the humor in these clips is subjective. The point that most of these ‘hilarious’ clips rely on stereotypes and not necessarily experience with the culture should be another post in itself. The best humor is the kind that doesn’t poke fun at a persons race, culture, ability, orientation. Personally, my favorite is self-deprecating humor. Perhaps these videos can also be a point in time, pinpointing our growth about what we think is or isn’t funny.
Oh to be an expat.
And, your welcome.
6 thoughts on “Misunderstandings in communication”
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So many years in Germany, a subsection of your blog dedicated to language, and not even one attempt at posting in German? )
James, that is a very (very) good point. I don’t, however, write in German for a two main reasons. First and foremost, my German is still pretty laughable. I can talk only slightly better than my son. Secondly, when I first started this blog, it was partially as a way to get all the thoughts in my head out and being that I’ve been speaking English for way over 30 years, I can articulate myself best in English.
I also wanted to add though, thanks for calling me out though-I should eventually try to write something in German! 😉