Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Language barriers

I've been having a tough desk shift today. It started with a gnat landing on my lip! Gross! Talk about the 'jungle' of public service. The worst part was that I was talking to a patron when it happened so I couldn't even freak out as I normally would.

I'm on the desk by myself from 6 p.m. to close because the evenings are normally really quiet. Instead both phones are ringing simultaneously while I have someone standing in front of me.

I had to break it to a very nice woman that the reason she can't find season 3 of the TV show Web Therapy was that it never came out on DVD, so there's no way for her to even buy one, let alone borrow one from the library. It's only available to purchase as single-episode digital downloads from Amazon or iTunes. This after she had just finished telling me that she 'just didn't get technology.'

The worst, though, is the nice middle-aged man who I call BBC Farsi Man because "BBC Farsi" was one of the very first English phrases he learned. He's from Iran and speaks very little English. He is one of the most patient men ever born, and a quick learner. When he first started coming into the library, all he could say besides "BBC Farsi" was "Good" and "Thank you." You had to walk him through every step of logging onto a computer and searching Google for the BBC website in Farsi. Now he can get to it all by himself and even goes on youtube and watches videos about his hometown. Now when he comes in he says, "Hello my friend!" with a big smile on his face, and shakes my hand. Every single time, and he is in most days.

Today he came in ("Hello my friend!") and after about 20 minutes he was able to convey to me that he wants to Skype with his friend from home. I think what he was telling me was that his friend had had a baby and he would like to see the image of the baby on Skype, but I'm not totally sure. I think what he wanted to know was, if he got a phone, could he could use the library's wireless internet to use Skype on it to call his friend? This is not a complicated idea, but our common language consists of about 10 words, so it was extremely hard for him to communicate to me. He was so happy when he finally got it across, even though the answer was 'yes, but a phone costs a lot of money.' I really wish I could tell him how patient he is and how much I appreciate it, but so far I am limited to weirdly over-emphasized facial expressions. I checked Pronunciator, our library's language-learning database/program, to see if it could help me out, but Farsi isn't one of its included languages.

So, if any readers happen to know how to say "You are very patient" or even "thank you" in Farsi, please let me know!

On the bright side, I did observe a woman come in, look around, and say to herself, "Wow, this place is amazing!"


  1. http://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/persian.php Apparently one Farsi word for thank you is (coincidentally) similar to the French "merci," which should make it easier to remember:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVlpvcY9FS0