In one of the places where I used to work, children from various backgrounds often had trouble communicating with me. They spoke little or no English and sometimes, little or no Hindi. Many came from backgrounds where they spoke just one language. Problems occurred when that one language was not one I understood.
I remember one such girl. She spoke just Telugu, and perhaps because of her language difficulties, she was extremely diffident. She stood watching and listening, never contributing to conversation. She listened to children asking for permission to go and drink water. Finally, mustering up her courage, she came up to me and asked, “Miss, mumblemumblemum water?”
I smiled and granted permission. That was the first time she spoke, so I merely said, “Yes.”
The next class, once again, “Miss, mumblemumblemum water?”
Once again, I replied, “Yes.”
When she asked me the same thing the third time around, I decided to correct her. She needed to learn how to phrase the sentence and say it well. So I said to her, clearly, enunciating each word, “Please may I drink water?”
“Yes,” she replied.