How to experience selective illiteracy on your travels
Travellers do it on purpose
travel to places
where we don’t speak a word
except for thank you and goodbye
and we can’t decipher a word
or syllable or logogram
so we can’t use a washing machine
and must depend on the kindness
Kind staff have tagged
a washing machine
with English words
dust mite removal
pour detergent here
My age cohort was dubbed
The Silent Generation
which makes me laugh
except at times like this.
this blindness to words
and deafness to meaning
this voluntary ignorance.
It strips away the buzz
and flutters up the mind.
While I cannot use or hear
my mother tongue
in a silent retreat
and if and when I meet
a crowd of English speakers
and gush and gabble
it’s all about me.
Travel note and photo by Rachel McAlpine at the Seoul Art Space—Yeonhui. Please comment or share if you feel that way inclined.
11 thoughts on “How to experience selective illiteracy on your travels”
Have you got google translate working fully Rachel… so love the function where you hold the phone over words and English pops up. Although lovelier to chat with human helpers instead where possible. Off to Japan tomorrow… will be having similar language adventures. Myra x
Myra how lovely! Enjoy Japan. We do have great tools but perversely that is not what I want. Sometimes I need the wordless experience.
I know this feeling of illiteracy and helplessness, not being able to read roadsigns or taking all afternoon to try to translate one paragraph of newsprint. Then, when in your home land again, as soon as you’re in the airport, the feeling of strength and literacy and knowledge kicks in with double power — all that was unconscious before is suddenly foreground!
It gives us empathy for those who live with functional illiteracy, day after day.
Appliances are too complicated. There should be a green button that say “Start” in all languages.
I’m glad someone though to mark them.
I need one in my brain. Except I do like not understanding sometimes, a sort of surrender. I doubt anyone else feels that way.
A wonderful reminder that English is not a universal language. Funny, I never thought about washing machines!
I like being reminded that true illiteracy affects almost every aspect of daily life and the course of life. We need literacy in our own language even to use the apps that translate…
In a great irony, my washer is from South Korea and uses a lot of symbols which I have trouble decoding! Enjoy the times of silence.
I’m sure you remember your sabbatical in Seoul in wonder and nostalgia now.
I do indeed!