lowbrowculture

collects stories and ideas from John Kelly

Yeah, no

As you’d expect, being a stranger in a strange land, I often find myself talking to people who aren’t native english speakers. I’ve learned that there’s a definite knack to having a conversation that crosses a few language barriers. Talk slowly, taking a lot of care to en-un-ci-ate ev-er-y syl-lab-le. And throw in a lot of hand gestures, too. They always help.

What doesn’t help is when you’ve got a verbal tic that must be incredibly confusing for the person listening to you. In my case, I have an awful habit of starting sentences with “Yeah… no.” My wife pointed this out to me a little while ago and now I can’t help but notice that I do it all the fucking time.

In my mind, though, it makes perfect sense. What I’m actually saying is “Yes, I hear, understand and appreciate what you are saying but no, this is not the case.” And it gives me extra time to think of a proper response. But to an Italian person listening to me, I probably sound like a babbling lunatic who is deliberately going out of his way to confuse them. English is confusing enough without me throwing a spanner in the works. For example, did you know there are roughly seven different ways to pronounce “ough” in the English language?

Although I’ve been getting less bummed out by my tic since I started noticing how many other people have it too. You’ve no idea how happy I was when I heard Joe Cornish say it on the Adam and Joe podcast. Famous people do it too!

Still, it doesn’t help me with my own problem. Maybe I should just start speaking Italian to Italian people.