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They Don’t Seem Great With English, Either. Or Patience.

, , , , , | Learning | August 3, 2020

This takes place in July 2020. I work at a university. At this university, there are two departments with similar names, both with “Education” in them. One department, where I work, deals with teacher education. The other department, Continuing Education, deals with classes offered to the community — think the cooking classes, typing classes, and so on, that you often find at a university. As the names are too similar, we tend to get a lot of calls and messages for the Continuing Education department.

I get a message on our department’s social media from a person asking to speak with an advisor. Even though it is after office hours — we close at 5:00 — I like to keep our response rate up by answering simple questions.

Person, 5:20 pm: “I need to speak with an advisor.”

Me, 5:22 pm: “Hi! You’ll need to make an appointment to see an advisor. You can do so here: [link].”

It is a fairly simple interaction, and I don’t think anything of it. We obviously cannot give people anything more than directory information via social media message, and I am not an advisor. I hop in my car and drive home.

Person, 5:48 pm: “When are you guys going to have Japanese classes back.”

Person, 5:49 pm: “?”

Person, 5:50 pm: “??”

Person, 5:51 pm: “Um, hello???”

Person, 5:52 pm: “Are you there?”

Person, 5:53 pm: “???”

I see these messages and think this person must have mixed up the departments, as many people do.

Me, 5:54 pm: “Hi, [Person], [My Department] does not offer Japanese classes. However, the [Continuing Education department] might have information on Japanese language courses being offered for personal enrichment; you can reach them at [email and phone number].”

Person, 5:54 pm: “But why do you guys have Japanese classes on your website?”

Person, 5:55 pm: “I’m checking right now and it says, ‘Japanese language classes.’”

I manage our department’s website, so I know it doesn’t say that. But to be sure, I ask.

Me, 5:56 pm: “Can you show me what website you’re looking on?”

Person, 5:58 pm: “Sure, just let me look for it.”

Person, 7:02 pm: “[Link]”

Person, 7:03 pm: “That’s what it says on you guys’ website.”

Person, 7:04 pm: “Japanese language classes.”

Person, 7:05 pm: “?”

Person, 7:07 pm: “I don’t know why you guys have Japanese classes on your website when you don’t have any Japanese language classes to begin with.”

Person, 7:08 pm: “Never mind. I’ll look somewhere else.”

While they have been sending these messages, I have been cooking dinner. I look at the link they sent me. It is an archived news article — clearly marked — dated from September of 2006, about the importance of learning different languages. It starts with the line, “Last week, President Bush announced…”

Me, 7:10 pm: “This appears to be an archived news article from 2006. Unfortunately, this information is not current. However, you can see current offerings on the [Continuing Education department] website at [link].”

Person, 7:10 pm: “[Message is marked as read.]”

She never responded to that one, but she left an angry voicemail on my coworker’s phone — not sure where she found the number — about how whoever is running our social media — i.e., me — is super rude and how dare we advertise Japanese classes on our website?!

We all got a good laugh out of that one, and I shared her contact information with the [Continuing Education department].

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