Opinion: Communicating beyond language

Joyce Ng

A few weeks ago, I witnessed a scene of communication breakdown between an international student and a front desk receptionist on campus. The student’s English wasn’t very good but English was the only common language that they knew. They were both getting increasingly frustrated as the minutes passed. When the student clearly did not understand what the receptionist was saying, all she did was repeat her words exactly, only louder and slower, with a tone of condescension. The conversation ended with the student leaving while shaking his head, as he clearly did not get what he was looking for.