We Listen to Reply

Based on my previous blog post, chronologically this post should be about “How to Apply for Germany Student Visa” or “First Week in Essen” and so on, but anyway :p.  A few months ago, I found this quote from Stephen Covey somewhere in either my Facebook timeline or Tumblr dashboard

the-biggest-communication-problem-is-we-do-not-listen-to-understand-we-listen-to-reply-2cb19

At the moment I was like “Wow, this is so freaking true”.  I personally don’t like to talk if there is nothing I want to add and I feel annoyed if in a meeting or discussion people just throwing out their opinion without a point and just reciting everything else that has been said before, just for the sake of replying.  I am not saying that I hate people expressing their opinion, but at some point at some institutions this ineffective habit of throwing pointless arguments is just, well, time-wasting.

Not until I have moved to Germany that I found this quote way way more relevant to my daily life.  FYI, I live in Essen, the 6th biggest city in Germany, the 2017 European Green Capital City with around 560.000 inhabitants.  It’s a very busy city along the Ruhr River, home to the famous steel company Thyssen Krupp and in the 19th century was a highly industrialized (and polluted) area.  People here are highly busy but not that english-speaking as another bigger cities such as Berlin or Munich, just to name a few.

Before I come here I have taken a German course in Bandung for 1,5 years.  I was thinking that “Well, I might not be able to write something in perfect German but I think I can manage that”.  Turns out I was wrong.  Yes I am able to understand some German terms, yes I can write e-mail in German but I cannot understand what the people are saying in German.  At all.  So I can start a conversation but I am not able to interpret what the response is.  Up until this time (4 months) I only manage to understand at the most 50% of what people are saying.  This is because they speak very differently with whatever it is I have learnt. Different speed and different accent.  There was a period when I was so overwhelmed by the fact that I cannot understand spoken German that I just didn’t want to go anywhere.  Even asking for toilet location at church can be overwhelming, simply because I was too afraid that I wouldn’t be able to understand the reply.  And I learnt it the hard way that to learn a language in its native land, you simply need to understand, and you should thrive to listen and understand what the question is.  (That also includes the courage to ask “Could you repeat a little bit slowly?”)

To speak about linguistics would be too far, but this is the point of communication.  How could I reply, if I don’t understand what the question is in the first place ? I have experienced this same thing with Sundanese and Javanese language back then.  But I never think of it, after all people will ask me question in Indonesian anyway, so why bother?   But here, I was given the basic, most important lesson in communication the hard way (well, according to my previously-spoiled-life-in-convenient-city). We listen not to reply, but to understand first.

 

Advertisements