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  • Jacqueline Le Sueur

Did I hear what you said ... or what I heard?

A chap in blue overalls unexpectedly knocked on my front door this afternoon and when I asked what he wanted he replied, in a broad Devon brogue,

"I've been told to come and look at your bush, maid."

I couldn't help myself on this day of weirdness and I burst out laughing, to which he replied with a totally blank visage,

"What's funny, maid?"

I have to be honest and admit it took me a fair moment to compose myself and show him the overgrown conifer in the back garden!

Over a cup of coffee later on I got to wondering how very easy it is to miscontrue what is said. Or rather, misconstrue what we hear. The difference here is significant for I am sure the man in blue overalls had no doubt about what he was saying to me. It was me who heard something completely differently for a moment, my intrepretation of the words I heard governed by my sense of humour and my mood on this most grey of days.

For those of us who work across cultures and languages it's a reminder of the linguistic minefield we both sow and walk across on a daily basis and of the importance of not only hearing what what we hear, but also for listening for what is being said.

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