I've started working at a highly multilingual place - thoughts
To anyone that might be interested into reading what it's like to work at a cashier in which there are many customers from many different backgrounds:
First, a bit of background: I started learning my first foreign language at, technically, age five. We would have "Spanish class" and learn the bare basics of the language. From then on to high school, I was required to learn Spanish, then was placed into Spanish II my freshman year of high school. I miserably hated it and haven't taken Spanish since. But, on the bright side, I found Duo! The rest is history.
I recently got a new job in the cafe at a large church, popular for tourists from around the world, and has masses in both English and Spanish.
So far, I've noticed a few things in relation to my knowledge of Spanish or of languages in general.
I have gone through the entire Spanish tree, and yet, the other day I couldn't for the life of me, remember how to ask a lady "What country are you from?" sigh
I think some people purposely speak to me in Spanish, assuming I don't know the language and use it to make fun of me. Or on the opposite side, they assume I understand the language, which I don't really get, since I don't look like the kind of person that would speak the language.
People are either flattered or weirded out when you tell them you like their accent or language or ask them where they are from. Understandably, of course.
Polish speakers have a beautiful accent when speaking English.
If you show interest in learning where someone is from, they are often happy to converse with you.
Spanish speakers tend to find out what the group wants to order right when they get to the front of the line far more than any other group. I don't mean this to be rude, it's just something I've noticed.
Those who don't really understand American currently tend to be very trusting of the cashier. (Guess what, that's me!) Which, considering it's a church, is probably an alright thing to do.
- Last weekend a man came into the cafe to order something and when I told him his total of $1.48 (or something) he handed me the dollar and then held out three quarters and asked, "How much is this?" I told him $.75, then he handed me the quarters and walked away. I guess he didn't want his change...?
Tourists tend to be a lot more accepting of mistakes than locals.
- On my third day there I accidentally dropped one slice of a foreigner's toast (honestly, a clumsy person like me should just stay at the register and not deliver plates...) but the customer just smiled and said that it was fine, then thanked me.
I'm just in the first few days of working, so I'm sure I'll have more to talk about soon!
Going through the entire tree in any language doesn't mean you speak that language. It means you're at a starting point to actually learn it. You need to practice by reading a lot, and listening a lot, and have conversations. Only then will you become more or less fluent in the language.