Desperate Telephone Communication
Let me illustrate with a hypothetical telephone conversation. I’m calling a hotel in Barcelona from a phone booth in the train station. I just arrived, read my guidebook’s list of budget accommodations, and I like Pedro’s Hotel. Here’s what happens:
Pedro answers, “Hotel Pedro, grabdaboodogalaysk.”
I ask, “Hotel Pedro?” (Question marks are created melodically.)
He affirms, already a bit impatient, “Si, Hotel Pedro.”
I ask, “Habla Eng-leesh?”
He says, “No, dees ess Ehspain.” (Actually, he probably would speak a little English or would say “moment” and get someone who did. But we’ll make this particularly challenging. Not only does he not speak English — he doesn’t want to… for patriotic reasons.)
Remembering not to overcommunicate, you don’t need to tell him you’re a tourist looking for a bed. Who else calls a hotel speaking in a foreign language? Also, you can assume he’s got a room available. If he’s full, he’s very busy and he’d say “complete” or “”no hotel” and hang up. If he’s still talking to you, he wants your business. Now you must communicate just a few things, like how many beds you need and who you are.
I say, “OK.” (OK is international for, “Roger, prepare for the next transmission.”) “Two people” —he doesn’t understand. I get fancy, “Dos people” — he still doesn’t get it. Internationalize, “Dos pehr-son” — no comprende. “Dos hombre” — nope. Digging deep into my bag of international linguistic tricks, I say, “Dos Yankees.”
“OK!” He understands, you want beds for two Americans. He says, “Si,” and I say, “Very good” or “Muy bueno.”
Now I need to tell him who I am. I say, “My name Ricardo (Ree-KAR-do).” In Italy I say, “My name Luigi.” Your name really doesn’t matter; you’re communicating just a password so you can identify yourself when you walk through the door. Say anything to be understood.
He says, “OK.”
You repeat slowly, “Hotel, dos Yankees, Ricardo, coming pronto, OK?”
He says, “OK.”
You say, “Gracias, ciao!”
Twenty minutes later you walk up to the reception desk, and Pedro greets you with a robust, “Eh, Ricardo!”