Vowel Movements

, , , , | Learning | April 27, 2019

(In most Spanish-speaking countries, the letters “B” and “V” sound exactly alike, which means you have to specify “big B” or “little V” when spelling. This leads to the hilarious mispronunciation of a number of English words. I’m volunteering to help a group of students practice their English, and I’m explaining the use of a/an:)

Me: “‘A’ is used when the next word starts with a consonant, like C, N, or T. ‘An’ is used when the next word starts with a vowel, like E, I, or U.”

Student #1: *muttering to self* “Oh, a bowel…”

Me: “No, no. A vowel. Little V.”

All Students: “Oh, a bowel!”

Me: *laughs* “Nope. Vowel. Little V. In English, big B and little V have two different sounds: B is with your mouth closed, and V is with your upper teeth on your lower lip, like this.” *demonstrates exaggerated movements*

Student #2: *attempting the new pronunciation* “V-v-vowel?”

Me: “Perfect!”

Student #1: “Bowel?”

Me: “No, a bowel is part of your insides — I don’t think you want that. Vowel has a little V. Remember, your teeth have to go on the outside of your bottom lip, like this.” *demonstrates and waits for everyone to copy*

Me: “Exactly!”

Student #1: “Okay… Bow—“

Me: “Not quite!”

Students #2-4: “Like this!” *demonstrate exaggerated mouth movements*

Student #1: “B-b-b-v-v-v-vowel…?”

Me: “Perfect!”

All Students: *cheer*

(After my own mishaps learning other languages, I love teaching them!)

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The Real Issue To Address Here Is You

, , , , | Right | February 24, 2018

(I work in customer service at a manufacturing company. Usually, customers send in their purchase orders via fax or email, but some prefer to do over-the-phone orders. On this particular day, the caller ID comes up as a customer that is known for being cranky on a good day, and I usually pray that he asks to be transferred to another desk.)

Me: “Good morning. [Company #1]. This is [My Name] speaking.”

Customer: *already sounding a little cranky* “Hi, I’d like to place an order.”

Me: *internal cringe* “Okay.” *even with caller ID, we have to confirm details* “What company are you from, sir?”

Customer: “[Company #2].”

(Since many of our customers have similar names, I always confirm the address to make sure I am entering the order under the right customer.)

Me: “And that is [Company #2] located out of [address]?”

Customer: *immediately irritable* I’ve ordered from you before.”

Me: “Yes, I know; I’m just confirming that I have the right company.”

Customer: *more irritated* “It’s not being shipped to us. You don’t need our address.”

Me: “That’s fine, sir, but I still need to confirm your company address just to make sure I am putting the order with the right customer.”

Customer: “Oh, okay. Yes, that’s our address.”

Me: “Okay, and what can I get for you today?”

Customer: *very quickly and not very clearly* “I’d like a [Part Number #1], [Part Number #2], and [Part Number #3] to [His Customer] at [address].”

Me: *cringing* “I’m sorry, sir, but could you slow down? That was a [Part Number #1] and what else?”

(The customer is immediately angry again, and he rattles off the same order and the whole customer address again before I can finish entering even the parts they are ordering.)

Me: *panic level rising* “I’m sorry. I’m going to need that address again. What is the customer name?”

Customer: *almost yelling now* “I said, [whole customer address, slurring the city name beyond recognition].”

Me: *confirming* “And that was [His Customer] out of [Town]?”

Customer: *screaming at the top of his lungs* “LISTEN! I SAID [entire address, very clearly this time since he is yelling in my ears].”

(We luckily don’t get very many rude customers, so I am not used to being yelled at, and I am almost about to cry. I try to make my voice drip with politeness and up the number of “sirs.”)

Me: “I’m sorry, sir. I am listening, sir. That was [His Customer] out of [address], correct?”

Customer: *still angrily* “Yes.”

Me: “And how would you like that shipped, sir?”

Customer: *affronted* “Are you new?”

Me: “No, sir. I’ve been here over a year.”

Customer: *suddenly the calmest he’s been the whole time, almost cheerful* “Oh. Well I’d like it shipped [ship method].”

Me: “Okay. I think we’re all set, sir. Is there anything else that I can help you with today?”

Customer: *still inexplicably cheerful* “No, that’s all. You have a nice day, now!”

(After I hang up, I look over and see my fellow office clerk staring at me.)

Clerk: “What was that?! I could hear him yelling all the way over here!”

(Luckily, that customer has been mostly civilized since.)

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