This or That: Speak or Hear?

Would you rather have the ability to hear, but not be able to speak, or be able to speak, but not hear?  And what I mean is: would you rather be able to understand others but not be able to communicate (talk, write, etc), or be able to communicate but not be able to understand others (hear, read, etc)?

It’s an often talked about fact in the expat community, that you lose some of your speech while living abroad.  You stop using idioms, because they don’t translate in a different language (or because non-native English speakers (or whatever your language) don’t understand them).  You have to look up words in the thesaurus a lot more often (case in point:  I had to look up “translate” in the previous sentence because the only word I could think of to convey my meaning was “transmit”).  You start using words for things that foreigners use (car park instead of parking lot, baby cot instead of crib, take-away instead of to-go).  I often find myself struggling to find the right words for things lately.  The language barrier is compounded, for me, by not usually talking to more than two people most days, one of them being a 1 year old.

Being a writer, a lover of words, I find this development…somewhat disheartening, to say the least.  Words used to flow out of me, my mouth, my pen, my keyboard, but I’m having a harder time of late. I have a plan of action…if I could only find the time to put it in place…

So obviously speaking (aloud or in print) is important to me.  But what if I could communicate, but not hear/understand?  Well, that would suck, but at least then I wouldn’t hear the bullshit spouted by some people, the hatred, the bigotry.  But I also wouldn’t be able to understand my husband, or my baby, when they say they love me.

Interesting conundrum.  I feel like it’s self-centered to say that I would rather be able to share my feelings with the world, put my thoughts out there, than hear what they think.  But I would rather tell my husband and son I love them a thousand times and not hear that they love me, than to not be able to tell them.  And that seems a bit less narcissistic.  I hope.  🙂

So what about you?  Which would you prefer?  Everyone who comments on This or That in the month of June is registered to win a 4×6 print of this photoHouse by the Sea

Categories: This or That? | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “This or That: Speak or Hear?

  1. i’ve had this discussion several times, expats lose their words!!! you don’t even realize it at first and then when you take up a conversation with one of your own you find yourself searching for words that once flowed so easily.
    i’m sweary and this expat thing has definitely contributed to it. not that i give a shit (ahahaha) but it’s true.

    this or that is a tough one this week. i can’t even pick because i cannot begin to imagine either scenario. sorry i suck!

  2. Another question — if you’re speaking your mind but you can’t hear/see/observe anyone’s reaction…wouldn’t you just stop speaking? Both seem like recipes for insanity!
    I think I’d rather be able to hear others and not communicate myself. I don’t want to be left only hearing my own voice. I mean even people with that “trapped in” syndrome figured out how to communicate via blinking! 🙂

    • insanity that’s exactly it! i would stop speaking i’d have too.

      i pondered the eye blinking too or a hand squeeze … is that communication also taken away. i assume yes.
      i weighed out both options of the question and it just made my head hurt.

    • Oh, interesting. I don’t think I’d stop speaking, but I would probably go insane!

  3. anonymous

    The problem is that everything one does is a communication: How and where you walk in traffic is communication, how you drink at mealtime is communication, etc. Such existence would not allow for any sort of normal interaction or life.
    You’re asking if we’d prefer everyone else having to accommodate us (speak) or having us accommodate others (hear) – both with the option of uncompromising non-compliance. The direction of communication is the possibility to effect or demand so unidirectional communication disallows any negotiation. I think I’d prefer understanding and silence over loud ignorance, if I could still have some semblance of normal life and activities. Under a strict (realistic) interpretation, I would choose otherwise as it would either imply being awake under complete paralysis or lacking all senses and being a nuisance to everyone. While the latter would be awful, the former is a form of torture.
    I suppose a non-realistic strict interpretation would a choice between being a ghost or a sort of force of nature.

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