Adventures of hackerdad()

Blogging about Life, the Universe, and my baby girl.

500 Dialects

The world is full of amazing insights, and you never quite know from where or how the next one will appear. Case in point, I spend a lot of time at opodz, this really amazing co-working space in a quiet corner of downtown Los Angeles. When I come after hours, there’s one of two security guards to give me a friendly hello in the lobby. This particular morning, he’s listening to some kind church music that sounds Byzantine.

“Are you Greek?” I ask.

“No, I’m from Congo”.

He’s been in the US a while, big guy, the kind you want to have on your side in case of a bar fight, but with a big smile to boot. I’ve said hello to him lots of times over the past two months, but this is the first time strike up a conversation instead of rushing to my computer.

He goes on to relate, among many other things, that in his country, deocracy is really hard. There are 500 dialects. He explains it like this, if the two tribes happen to be nearby each other, they’ll speak different dialects but still be able to understand each other, more or less. If the US were like that, then people from Los Angeles and San Francisco would speak a different language, but could kind of understand each other, but people from Arizona and California would be lost.

In a way, we all speak a different language because each of us has arrived to the here and now with a different set of experiences.

I’m going up to San Francisco on Tuesday to attend SF-Scala. I’m looking forward to an awesome presentation about Scala collections and saying hello to great people I met at the Scala Symposium last August. The talk will be in English, of course, but still, I can’t take it for granted that we all “speak the same language.” No worries, good communication starts with understanding that good communication isn’t easy.

The next time you walk by a guy in a hurry to get to your computer, take a moment to say something more than just a friendly grunt, you just might learn something!