The joy of learning a language

When it comes up in conversation that I can speak more than one language, the most common reaction I get is ‘oh I wish I’d carried on learning xxx [insert language here]’, followed by ‘I was rubbish at languages, but I’d love to be able to speak something else’.

That’s such a shame. Some of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in my life are as a result of learning a language, or being able to speak to someone else in their own tongue.

  • Sometimes it was as simple as befriending the local butcher in a small Normandy village, and him offering us vegetables from his own kitchen, because all the other shops had already closed for the evening.
  • It can be as eye-opening as talking to remote Mozambican villagers in cod-Portuguese about their lives.
  • As terrifying as ringing the emergency doctor in Germany because my then-girlfriend couldn’t stop being sick. I learned some new vocabulary on that call, I can tell you!
  • Or being able to persuade a local woman to offer us a room for the night in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, because we had nowhere else to stay.

I was only able to do those things because I’d learned the language (to varying levels) and felt confident enough to at least try and have a conversation. Continue reading “The joy of learning a language”

You can’t please all the people…

Bill Bernbach

Reading one of Nick Cave’s excellent Red Hand Files reminded me of the Bill Bernbach quote that I shared on LinkedIn back in 2016.

Fast forward four years and – right now – being bold feels like a dangerous activity. Cave himself hits the nail on the head with this quote:

“…what songwriter could have predicted thirty years ago that the future would lose its sense of humour, its sense of playfulness, its sense of context, nuance and irony, and fall into the hands of a perpetually pissed off coterie of pearl-clutchers? How were we to know?”

Barely a day goes by without an example of public bear-baiting on social media – despite calls for restraint in the wake of Caroline Flack’s death.

The way people orchestrate something akin to a digital lynching when someone expresses an opinion that doesn’t appear to conform to the mean is reprehensible.

However, I have also seen remarkably reasonable debates on both Twitter and Facebook between people who completely disagree on an issue – one about Quentin Tarantino’s alleged misogyny manifesting itself in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood sticks in the mind.

But the world is built on people swapping stories and ideas, which more often that not come with a difference of opinion.

We are human. We think. We don’t all have the same opinions. We should be comfortable that sometimes people don’t agree with us.

What we must guard against is how (and possibly where) we choose to discuss and evaluate those ideas.

By and large, I have found myself unwilling to voice an opinion online. And if a straw poll among friends is anything to go by, I know I’m far from alone.

Meanwhile in the comfort of a group I know, I’m willing to put something potentially contentious out there, safe in the knowledge that I won’t become Public Enemy No.1.

I’ll leave the last word to Nick Cave again…

“I would rather be remembered for writing something that was discomforting or offensive, than to be forgotten for writing something bloodless and bland.”

Why tone and voice is so important

Our Hotpoint dishwasher of 10 years has finally given up the ghost. Fortunately, we’d taken out extended warranty, so a replacement is on its way.

Having ordered the new one, we got a text within hours:

Hotpoint welcomes your Dishwasher order. Your Journey starts here and our teams will be with you until completion, providing updates along your journey.

I don’t know where to start with this. It’s all kinds of wrong and highlights the apparent difficulty that so many large brands have in creating a consistent and credible tone and voice.

To begin with, why is ‘Hotpoint’ doing the welcoming? Shouldn’t it be ‘we’, quite aside of the dodgy use of ‘welcome’.

And then there’s the tiresome, hackneyed use of ‘journey’… I’m only waiting for a dishwasher to be delivered, for God’s sake.

The thing is, I understand the broad intention of Hotpoint. Providing a friendly, customer-centric buying experience is crucial to how you build up advocacy and repeat business. Continue reading “Why tone and voice is so important”