Tim, you’re a bit slow…
In the office, I received some light-hearted feedback that I talk a bit slow. After wrapping up a meeting early, I claimed credit by saying, “I talked fast.” The response was that it was probably the other person that talked fast. I felt a little defensive. It’s not that I’m dim-witted. I’m just thoughtful and contemplative when I express myself, or something along those lines.
Today I sat in on a meeting in which I was the only foreigner. I didn’t play much of a role in the meeting, but they spoke English for my benefit. Listening to the cadence of the exchange among the Chinese was enlightening. The speed was on fast-forward, only the pitch was not Alvin-and-the-Chipmunks high. It was like a two-minute conference that had to cover 30 minutes of information. But the countenance and expression was not hurried at all; somehow it was conversational. Rapid fire conversational. It was then that I had to concede that the Chinese are just fast talkers. The Cantonese is fast, but that’s hard to appreciate because I don’t understand anyway.
I’ve thought about the reason I haven’t noticed my speaking disability before. I think when people speak to me one on one, they are actually slowing down so I can comprehend. (My note taking capabilities are even slower than my speaking abilities and sometimes they will pause until I quit writing. They are gracious enough to not get some tea while they wait.) There are a few other foreigners in the office, but to my knowledge they are all British. While the British are also slow in speech, I have to admit that they are probably a little faster than me – I’m sure for the Chinese, it’s still like listening to Eeyore talk. What I wouldn’t give for an expat from Mississippi in the office for a favorable comparison.