Misunderstanding misunderstanding

Ever feel misunderstood?

The other day I called to order a pizza for pickup. It went something like this:

  1. Me: I’d like to order a pizza for pickup.
  2. V: …
  3. Me: I’d like a Yukon gold potato pizza, please.
  4. V: No, what time would you like to pick up the order.
  5. Me: Oh, sorry, 7:00 or 7:15, please.
  6. V: OK, and what would like?
  7. Me: I’d like a Yukon gold potato pizza, please.

Now if you were (I’m foreshadowing here, but you’ll have to wait a few more posts for what that is), what would you think of my response in (3)? Probably that I hadn’t heard right, which is correct.

However, I’ve had similar kinds of exchanges while speaking various other languages (though not for ordering pizza for pickup), where V‘s response or expression indicates that they think I didn’t understand the question because of my (lack of) language ability. In those cases where I just didn’t hear the question (as in this case in English), it pricks my vanity a bit to have the miscommunication attributed to my language (in)competency — they have misunderstood my misunderstanding.

To be fair, when I’m just beginning to learn a language, often I don’t understand and so guess about the meaning. However, as I get to speak better, I don’t have to guess as often. However, the other person doesn’t have any way of knowing why I’m guessing, so it’s not completely unreasonable to chalk my guess up to language skill rather than hearing. I’d still prefer the hearing explanation though, especially if I otherwise am communicating OK. And I’m sure that I’ll be guessing more in English as my hearing gets worse with age.

I’ll end by saying that I very much appreciate those people who persist despite my language competency misunderstandings. I’m especially grateful to Herr Dr. Fischer in Tübingen, who struggled with my German, but who gave me some of the most useful medical advice I’ve ever had, despite that. Vielen herzlichen Dank, Herr Dr. Fisher!