My day job (and often evening job and weekend job) takes place in a public library. For a middle-sized Midwestern city, my town is home to a fair number of non-native English speakers, probably because we also have a fair number of colleges and universities. Many of these folks find their way to the library.
I have a lot of respect for someone who is willing to move to a new land, learn a new language and actually go out in public to communicate with strangers. I’m not sure I’d have the courage, myself. It’s a good exercise for me to speak with someone who is still learning English. I have to practice true listening and I relearn the lesson that sometimes communication takes effort. But if I keep trying and the patron keeps trying, we almost always end up arriving at an understanding.
I’ve had enough experience with this by now, some things are easy. Somebody looking for ESL materials? I get that one right the first try almost every time. Somebody looking for something more particular? Well….
This morning, it was a gray-haired gentleman asking for books by, um – Chaser? Much known English writer. Okay, I understood that part of the explanation. From age ago. Alright – not contemporary, then. My mind was working – much known, wrote in English, ages ago – Chaser? Chaucer! Chaucer! Did he want books by Chaucer? No, not Chaucer – Chaser. Okay, let’s keep working. Does the gentlemen know any titles by this writer? Yes – Juries Seize Her. We’re not quite to charades yet, but almost. Author sounds like Chaser. Title sounds like Juries Seize Her. Aha! Julius Caesar by Shakespeare! He wanted to read Shakespeare!
See: patience, listening, persistence, successful communication! We did it!