On Opportunities and Other Lessons from Wile E. Coyote

Opportunity (noun / op.por.tu.ni.ty / \ˌä-pər-ˈtü-nə-tē, -ˈtyü-\)

  • a favorable juncture of circumstances
  • a good chance for advancement or progress

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Image courtesy of: Wikipedia

A little flashback…

Wile E. Coyote- the most hard-headed, stubborn, and pathetic cartoon character that I knew of. I didn’t care much about him when I was in my pre-teen years. I was all about the Roadrunner who I considered the fastest, smartest and coolest looney toon (right after Bugs Bunny). 

Everything changed when I went to Spain. Oh, how the Spanish loved the Coyote! (Just as they love Tom more than Jerry, or the fact that they feel more sympathy for Elmer Fudd than for Daffy…). It took me a while to understand their perspective but it was only lately that I began to fully appreciate Coyote.

Exactly several weeks ago, I started to entertain different side projects and I reflected on how this character always saw the glass half-full. Only then did I really see him under a different light- the most determined, creative and hard-working animated creature I have ever seen.


Finding a job is generally hard, or at least not easy. Ask anyone unemployed and most probably they’ll give you the same answer, “The company’s not hiring”, “The firm’s actually laying people off”, “I can’t renew my contract because the department has no budget”, et cetera… Added to that is the fact that more and more people are better educated, more highly trained and some of them are willing to settle becoming underpaid just to have a job.

All of these challenges multiply to 20 times more difficult in Paris, under normal circumstances. It should come as no surprise, considering it’s a big city. It houses many international companies who daily face 10,000 times as much qualified people fighting to work with them.

Given the economic crisis/slowdown (whichever makes you feel better), it becomes 100 times extra harder to even land on an interview with the recruiters!

Thus, the day it finally dawned to me that I’ll never get a job in Paris, I stopped all kinds of activities related to job hunting* such as: checking job sites for vacancies, tweaking my resumé, and writing alternative versions of my cover letter.

What I did instead was to meditate on my situation and watch some cartoons. After enjoying a several episodes of the Looney Toons, I started to think about Wile E. Coyote’s unrelenting attitude about catching the Roadrunner.

Following are the lessons I picked up.

Lesson number 1: Change your game plan.

Ironically, the first lesson is something the Coyote never applied in his own life. For years and years for as long as I can remember, he would always resort to dynamites, bombs, anvils or other heavy objects and booby traps to catch the Roadrunner. Not once did he ever think to change his strategy. (For instance, he could bribe corrupt traffic policemen to arrest the other for over-speeding and he can have the bird handed over to him in jail.)

In light of this mistrust towards change, we should not wonder why the famished canine never got roasted Roadrunner on his dinner table.

Back in the real world, I realized how all this time I had done nothing but follow the same routine: look for a job, apply for an interesting vacancy that suits my qualification, tweak my resumé, tweak my cover letter and wait for their response. I believe the only change I incorporated in the last two years is re-sending my application after 15 days of not hearing from the company. This is not so bad. In fact, this is the way people normally find livelihood. But in 730 days, all I got were 5 job interviews.

Immediately, I became aware that I actually have to do something more productive- something that would actually turn in better results. So instead of looking for jobs, I started to look for opportunities- to showcase the quality of my written work, to build contacts, to reconnect with friends and peers from the past, to learn about other fields similar to mine, to discover different fields that have nothing to do with my expertise, to see what others are doing and to be inspired with what pioneering people are developing around me.

Perhaps I could liken my opportunity-seeking efforts to that of sowing. One sows a seed, tends to it, nurtures it and does all that it takes to produce a bountiful harvest. In the same way, I have this blog where I could practice and improve my writing and researching skills. Likewise, my social media activity has granted me access to dynamic people who have very interesting stories to tell, and who have allowed me the privilege of interviewing them. Although, it must be said that none of these transpired in a day.

As it is, this leads us to the second lesson…

Lesson number 2: Do be patient.

Exercise patience in practice- not in speech, not in theory, not in your mind, not as a “what if”.

How many times have we seen the Coyote go after the Roadrunner again, and again, and again until we get tired and turn the TV off without being told to? And during those times when we would watch him go at it yet once again: how often would we see him assembling traps, studying blueprints, constructing weapons? Then after having prepared his equipment: how frequently would we catch him hiding behind a cactus, a boulder, fitting himself into the form of a telephone pole while waiting for his prey to pass by?

Just as the Coyote worked hard to ensure that his ACME materials would work and that the bird would sooner or later pass his way, so does the farmer. For he is certain that he will gain something from what was sown. He also knows that for him to be able to gain anything, he would need TIME to do its work.

Not all that I have sown bore the fruits I expected and there were instances when the seed even turned to be a bad one. Yet I had no way of knowing until it was time to know. I was in no position to rush anybody or anything. Waiting is as much part of any process as the more active tasks. The key is to learn how to wait.

Lesson number 2.1: Learn how to wait.

This is something I had to learn from my own experience because unfortunately, not all of my “targets” move as fast as the Roadrunner.

The best way I learned how to wait is to make sure there is nothing left pending on my to-do list. Why not take a look at yours?

After marking every item with a check, proceed to ask yourself these questions: When did you last visit your dentist? Have you talked to your grandparents lately? What about that coffee date you keep on postponing with your former office mate? It may seem absurd now, but in keeping yourself active you won’t notice whether time is flying fast or slow.

The second best way I spend my waiting time is observing my surroundings. With the internet, I can do this not only beyond my doorstep but also across national and continental borders. By doing this, who knows what other opportunities are waiting to be unlocked?

Lesson number 3: Every result is a valid result.

In this case, the word VALID is not the same as DESIRED. 

Notice how in scientific experiments, all types of results are noted down (if you did an Investigatory Project in high school maybe this will ring a bell). If there is enough occurrences of such outcome, it will be factored in drawing conclusions. Why is this? because we can always learn from the past, and there’s no better way of reviewing it than taking detailed notes.

Do you remember what the Coyote would do if the giant slingshot didn’t get him close enough to the Roadrunner? what about when the canon literally backfired on him? or that time when the rocket took him too far away? He would just keep on trying new equipment until he finds himself fallen in a ravine, crushed under a ton of boulders (or an anvil).

I never take any failure for granted. I write down everything I could describe, all that I could remember and I try to consider them the next time there is another opportunity to seize.

Once I started applying this principle, my motto has since become…

Lesson number 4: No stopping (No detenerse, in Spanish)

Mr Coyote never stopped. He just kept on running and chasing after the bird even if he already hit a wall.

Do you recall how he dealt with the situation after hitting a wall? Aside from smiling at the stars and birds that circled around his head, he would paint a door, a tunnel or any type of passageway that would allow him to cut across that roadblock. 

Lesson number 5: Create opportunities for yourself.

After more than half a year of searching for opportunities other than a 9am-6pm job, I realized I had to do something more and something better. By that time, I have surrounded myself with a fantastic community of entrepreneurs, professionals, freelancers and different types of passionate people who were already giving me various ideas.

From them I learned that just like the Coyote, it is possible to create a door or a path for us to follow. The end is not the end, unless we want it to be.

Frequently, we take the already downtrodden way because it is the safest option. But truly, risks are contained in any decision we make, including when we stay undecided. Having an employment contract is financially less riskier than not having one, that’s for sure. The thing is, everything entails a risk: even signing on a “permanent” job has the risk of being dismissed. If we didn’t want to be in danger of losing it, then we shouldn’t take the job in the first place- is that how we should view life? I’m not suggesting to jump into any venture with eyes closed. Perhaps the solution is not so much to avoid risks but rather learning how to manage them. As the Spanish would say, “Quién no arriesga, no gana” (Nothing risked, nothing gained).

Do you know what the good news is? The good news is that should you decide to build your own lane and find yourself facing a cul-de-sac, you may always go back to pursue the tried and tested trails.

If we truly wish to move forward then it wouldn’t matter whether we crawl or run; it matters that we keep going (thank you, Doctor Luther King).

People who create opportunities gift themselves the chance to achieve excellence.

This is not to say that the road you will construct will be a smooth one. It never was the case for any of my auspicious friends and peers. But by letting their own selves be the engineer, contractor, builder, supervisor and financier of their ambitions, they all took the necessary preparations to face different kinds of risks. Most importantly, they worked hard and consulted with experts on their fields so they could learn how to manage those risks, in case they turn into reality.

Once or twice an impulsive plunge was taken or a hasty decision was made, yes. Then there were times when certain events were so unexpected, they didn’t even account for as risk (like a terrorist attack). Still, they went on. Most of them might not know it: but in striving to succeed, they have achieved excellence. You might be wondering how I knew this. And just to be clear, I did not have a peek at their bank accounts nor did they tell me their net earnings per year.

The excellence I speak of is being materialized far beyond any of their material possessions. The excellence I have in mind is the kind that is reflected not only in the product of their hard work (ie: a product, a service, a deliverable or a client feedback)- it is also mirrored in their speech, their actions and their intentions. For these people, excellence ceased to be a goal and has become a way of life.


It’s been two months since I had the realization of my need to do something more and do something better, other than simply looking for job vacancies and applying for them. I did stop the job hunt for a while, especially because I needed to meditate on what my next move will be.

At the end of the day (or week) I still look for a paid employment. The difference this time is I have become more selective, and I never fail to mention my other endeavors in the applications.

Truth be told, the time I took off the routine helped a lot; taking another course of action proved productive for me. For example, the moments I spent working on my blog doing independent research and writing have given me a certain level of exposure. Thanks to that, I am able to gather a portfolio of work which includes: drafting, analyzing, researching and translating in all the languages I speak. Now I am also more open-minded towards applying for other types of jobs besides the usual ones.

At the same time, I’ve connected with many interesting people who are currently teaching me and sharing their experiences with me. Some of them are even allowing and inviting me to collaborate with their projects!

The sudden burst of activity has become a training ground for me to exercise patience and learn from mistakes. Besides, being in constant motion only convinced me not to stop advancing my personal venture. Above all, I believe that I am creating opportunities for myself and for others. Knowing this gives a more meaningful purpose to every task I perform- to develop something that would serve not only my interests, but that of others as well.

However, no amount of patience, learning, motion and creation could guarantee goals being reached. During my short time in this uncommon scheme, I learned that perfect planning does not always translate to the projected outcomes. Whenever this happens, one’s patience is tested even further but simultaneously, more lessons can be learned, other doors can be opened and the most surprising opportunities could arise.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning the fact that the Coyote still hasn’t got any wins to prove his worth as a role model. Even so, at least his patience and perseverance make him one very admirable villain.



*My particular, personal circumstances are allowing me the luxury to do this. I do not mean to be insensitive towards other people who are forced to being underemployed and underpaid to support their families. I am also in no way encouraging the unemployed to stop looking for job opportunities and simply “go ahead with what they feel like doing”.

-The End-


  1. Merriam-Webster online dictionary, available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Some thoughts on philanthropy

For 5 months, I was given the chance to work as Prospect Research Officer (or Fundraising Researcher) for a prestigious business school just outside of Paris. I worked alongside the rest of the Advancement Team and sometimes also lent a hand to the Alumni Relations and Events (organization) departments. It was the most interesting part of my colorful professional history because: i) it introduced me to the fast-growing world of philanthropy, ii) I met some really great people and iii) the first two reasons combined have given me a different perspective when analyzing situations. Here are some of the thoughts I’ve reflected upon during that period…

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Image courtesy of: http://frankazargives.com

Some people believe that charity organizations should give aid to those in greatest need, wherever they live. Others believe that they better concentrate on helping people who live in their own countries instead.

From a practical point of view, resources are more effective when delivered to those who pressingly lack them. It is perceived to be more useful, as it directly addresses the problem at hand. In an ideal world, the aid that was donated would be equal to the aid received. Yet the fact remains that a percentage of this aid is lost along the way before finding its beneficiaries: conversion rates could be harsh, banks and other financial services companies charge high commissions, there’s tax to be dealt with… In short, there’s a certain level of fungibility in these funds, where aid can become “hostage” to the local context.

That is why not only aid effectiveness should be considered when allocating donations. Costs and benefits also have to be taken into account when deciding how to dispose of available resources. In this regard, economists would try to convert the dilemma into a mathematical formula: see if there are patterns that would lead to the best choice, and try to predict a final result of their analysis.

Still, the choice is not really between helping a population “in need” and one that has “better location”. The question actually lies in how charity organizations manage themselves, whose own funding mostly comes from subsidies, grants and/or donations. As a matter of fact, non-profits are accountable to their donors, binding them to comply with the specifications detailed out by their patrons regarding the use of funds. Oftentimes, they are also required to report about the funds’ impact to the community, or at least to the target population (but this is a subject for another essay). Therefore, the choice of which people to serve does not lie entirely in their hands.

A more balanced approach would seem to be reaching an accord to meet donors’ objectives while respecting the realities of both the organization and the community he wishes to help. This means donors would have to be engaged (at least the major givers) by the organization to take an active part in determining how best to allocate their contribution. The initiative would call for a constant and consistent communication from both parties.

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Image courtesy of: https://educationunderattack.info

This offers a win-win situation because on one hand, regular contact would allow the donors to disclose their motivations for making such a contribution. For instance, they could make the organization understand their emotional connection to the beneficiaries. On the other hand, organizations could take this opportunity to better explain their activities to their patrons. This could be a good moment to make them see that a strong infrastructure and qualified professionals are required to deliver aid to those who are in need; and as such,  funding has to be allocated to these operational aspects as well. Only through communication can the two ends find a middle ground that would allow each of them to carry out their respective mission statements.

A typical philanthropist would think and argue about improving the lives of those in greatest need; while a typical economist would compute the costs in terms of time, effort, phone bills and transportation that result from the continued communication between donors and organizations. Both would have good points to defend their views.

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Image courtesy of: https://intentionalmuseum.com

However, it should be noted that listening is as vital as analysing in any problem-solving situation. Gloria Steinem, co-founder of the Women’s Media Centre explains, “Helping begins with listening. Context is everything… Big problems often have small solutions. And finally, do what you can.”


  1. “The Parable of the Fence and Other Lessons”, available at> https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140404194646-25295057-the-parable-of-the-fence-and-other-lessons
  2. IELTS Essays, Essay Topic sample available at: http://www.testbig.com/ielts-essays/some-people-believe-charity-organizations-should-give-aid-those-greatest-need-wherever

That Which Contains the Human Capital

When I was in 6th grade, my classmate Ellen S. once told me that according to her grandmother, “There are no ugly people. Only less beautiful ones”. That struck to me as something true and it appealed to my empathic nature. I adopted that philosophy until my adulthood and was happy with that reconciled thought.

The first time my husband heard me say that, he laughed so hard because he thought I was being sarcastic. After a few dates and several encounters with the “less beautiful”, he finally realized that I meant it.

So, what does it mean to be ugly in the realm of human capital?

What is Beauty? What is Ugly?

Beauty, according to sociologist Jean-François Dortier is a debatable topic for all eternity because ugliness is indisputable. Allow me to disagree. The concept of ugliness is just as subjective as that of beauty, making it susceptible to disagreement and justifications. What’s more, if people and societies have a clear idea of what is pleasing to the eye, then they must have an equally decided criteria of what is not. However, he argues, there are constant elements present in every idea of beauty across time and continents. For instance, badly placed teeth, weird spots on the face, grimace-like facial expressions or stains will hardly be found in those considered as canons of beauty.

Dortier, in his article “The Tyranny of Beauty”, says that ugliness in a person is a heavy handicap when brought into the markets of marriage and labor*. I will not disagree. But allow me to focus this post on how physical beauty plays an important role when buying and selling (workforce) in the labor market.

I believe that the idea behind this discrimination is caused by the unthinking mammals in us, who uses its instincts to survive. In the animal kingdom, the ones who are successful in mating are the more beautiful samples of their species. Why? Simply because it denotes HEALTH and thus, STRENGTH. An animal’s only role is to procreate and who better to multiply one’s race if not the best and the most likely to survive of the lot? The equation is easy to infer:


With regards to human capital, somebody who looks good (well-proportioned body, bright eyes, good teeth and pinkish complexion) is certainly a sign of having been well-fed, a smooth skin on the face signifies not much exposure to external or internal stress and of course good grooming is very much attributed to a good upbringing in the family.

The relationship then, is easy to establish: somebody who is properly nourished, who did not experience much stress and who was brought up well must belong to a family with enough resources: resources which sufficed not only to make the person survive, but to develop him into a citizen able to participate in the community. Thus, the better-looking a person is, the higher value is attributed to the talents and capacities he was able to build up through his lifetime. The equation could then be modified into:

Beauty=Health=Learning Ability=Developed Talents=GOOD

Sadly as time passed, this equation has slowly been overly simplified as:


Sadder still, the concept of goodness has been generalized to being good overall: good worker, good person, good team mate, etc… Only time will prove this notion to be untrue, after all that’s been said and done, spent and consumed- leading to realizations and regrets.

For instance: 13 years ago while spending my summer holidays in the Philippines I overheard a friend complaining to my mother. Apparently in all the job interviews she has been to, the requirement “Must have pleasing personality” was always being equated to “Must be pleasing to the eyes”. In short, the job applicants must respond to a certain beauty standard established by the Human Resources (HR) department.

Now, I admit that for jobs requiring a brand representation or corporate delegation perhaps being easy on the eyes increases sales and improves financial results. I also know that HR staff cannot waste their time interviewing candidates just to check whether they meet the physical requirements they’ve imposed (in those cases where a photo was not included in the resumé). But demanding someone to have a pleasing personality when what they meant was for the candidate to be a certain kind of pretty… is just plain deceiving.

Anyway, who was the authority who declared that a beautiful physique is equal to a pleasing personality? Above all, whose claim made it a fact that a beautiful façade always holds a great talent?

In fact, below is Eduardo Gómez Manzano, famous Spanish actor. He is very well-appreciated in his job. He, along with the other beauty-lacking actors have opened up this generation’s minds and as well as this century’s entertainment industry that talent is not always contained in a lovely package.

Image courtesy of: http://www.fotoshumor.com

Boosted Brands but Talents Trashed

Studies have shown that other job types where no “representation” of the firm is needed, hiring teams still tend to favor beautiful applicants. Again, why? Because it’s good for the company’s image. It boosts the brand. It matters little if another candidate was more competent or skillful- human nature just can’t help but lean towards company that could offer pleasure to its vision.

It’s a pity though, because can you imagine if the Futbol Club Barcelona (FCB) refused to hire Ronaldinho because of his looks? Having said this, can you now picture just how many people lost their opportunity to contribute to an organization’s mission and vision just because they didn’t qualify physically? And can you imagine how much potential is currently being left unused just because of this terribly absurd bias?

I have stopped being a football fan more than a decade ago, but I admire how the sport’s values are consistent to their branding strategy. A football club must be composed of the best players it could hire (pay for) without regards to whether they would look good or bad in front of a camera (although I noticed Ronaldinho seemed to have had something done to his face).

In an ideal world, banks and/or banking groups would hire the brightest analytic minds, research organizations would employ the smartest and most focused among the pool of candidates, schools would choose their teachers according to their capacity to diffuse knowledge and infuse curiosity, shops would enlist salespeople with charm and wit to engage customers, and so on…

This way, demand for a specific qualification would be met by the satisfactory supplier; competition among various suppliers would rise, pushing more and more suppliers of talent/labor/workforce to be better qualified than the rest and prices (salaries) would adjust accordingly.


Image courtesy of: http://www.fastcompany.com

(In the least ideal world, we’ll have what I call “Pippas”. Pippa* was my college teacher in Economic History. Not only is she the opposite of beautiful, she also taught horribly! in short, ugly and incompetent people.)

Ugly ≠ Unkempt but Unkempt = Uninterested

While conducting a very modest research on this subject, I encountered quite a number of online fora exhibiting questions such as, “Are smart people ugly?” or “Why are smart people usually ugly?” (For the sake of simplicity, we shall assume that being smart equates to being competent in any given job.)

As someone who is more appreciated for her smarts, I believe I am at the position to respond. And my answer is that most (not all) smart people find it more important to strengthen their brains than to embellish their physical selves. There are so many books to read, so many people to talk to, so many things to ponder and many, many more things to (literally) take note of that a normal person’s waking hours are not enough**. That is why they make it a point not to “waste” time doing something not so gratifying to them.

The point is: One can be as ugly as far as ugly goes and admittedly, not all can afford cosmetic surgery to modify their genetic legacy. But I believe that a person’s appearance is his presentation card (especially in a job interview!). As such, one cannot care too less because first impressions do last. Besides, in the context of hiring, interviewers would actually imagine themselves working with you, travelling and attending meetings with you and perhaps even having to defend any future blunders you might commit. Do you think they would want to do all those things with a sloppy-looking colleague? Accordingly, one can and must appear neat, pleasant, motivated and ALWAYS COLLABORATIVE. Here’s why…

An Unexpected Twist

According to an article from INSEAD Knowledge, “… the type of expected relationship the decision-maker will have with the new hire is very much a consideration, consciously or not, when selecting candidates for the job.” Although the results of the experiments were more conclusive for men than women, it’s interesting to note that when the hiring personnel perceive that the attractive candidate could be a potential competition (read: could be a threat on their own promotion) the less attractive applicant would be chosen instead.

“Members of the same organisation are often mutually interdependent, for example they may cooperate for shared rewards when they work for the same team, or compete against each other for recognition, promotions, commissions, and bonuses. In many organisations today co-workers are included in the hiring process… Similarly, professors at universities often selected professors they are going to work with. When this occurs, the type of expected relationship the decision-maker will have with the new hire is very much a consideration… ”

A twist within the twist

On the other side of the Atlantic, Debrahlee Lorenzana sued her employers for having fired her because she was “too hot”. Thinking about it and as the Newsweek article pointed out: “isn’t it possible Lorenzana’s looks got her the job in the first place?”

Yet, did you know that some studies even show that attractive women may find it hard to be hired? supposedly if the employers are females, jealousy may arise.


Are We Doomed?

I would sincerely like to believe that we are not. Yes, it would take years of education and enlightenment before people get to terms that unattractive people can be competent, good team players, efficient leaders and desirable work mates. However, the diversity of human nature provides for adjustments such as:

  • The belief that beauty automatically translates to competency is compensated with the view that attractive people could deter the employers’ own progress or,
  • That beautiful people are just dumb.

Such absurd conclusions may be the exceptions to the rule, but I would like to believe that there is a balance being struck somewhere.

In a world where being beautiful is being sold as a choice (just Google how many $$$ the cosmetic industry cashes in per month), those who are not might be deemed indifferent or inflexible. But this is the same world where information is the most important resource for production, so it will just be a matter of time before everybody- even the unbeautifuls- find their place in it.


*Name was changed
**Personally, I prioritize hygiene but I don’t find it practical nor worth my time to wake up 30 minutes earlier just to apply makeup and fix my hair. I clean, I moisturize, I tie my hair and I brush my teeth. And I smile.

-the end-


Now, just because it’s summer in this part of the hemisphere: join me by putting your speaker volumes to MAX and enjoy the un-beautiful BUT DIVINE, JANIS JOPLIN!!!


 Disclaimer: I do not own this video. Video courtesy of Zuzuking Youtube page.


  1. “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful”, available at: http://www.economist.com/node/21551535
  2. “The Beauty Advantage: How Looks Affect Your Work, Your Career, Your Life”, by Jessica Bennett, available at: http://europe.newsweek.com/beauty-advantage-how-looks-affect-your-work-your-career-your-life-74313?rm=eu
  3. “The Beauty Premium”, by Schumpeter, available at: http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2010/11/good_looks_and_good_jobs
  4. “La Tyrannie de la Beauté”, par Jean-François Dortier, available at: http://www.scienceshumaines.com/la-tyrannie-de-la-beaute_fr_22384.html
  5. “A New Twist to the Beauty Bias”, by Stefan Thau, available at: http://knowledge.insead.edu/talent-management/a-new-twist-to-the-beauty-bias-4004

Quel dommage !

Un grand merci à mon amie Super A d’avoir édité et reédité le texte. Por si no ha quedado claro, MUCHAS GRACIAS SUPER A!

Nous habitons dans une société où la plupart de nos besoins peuvent être satisfaits en échange d’une compensation. Cela veut dire que nous payons bien pour les services qui nous sont rendus, bien pour les produits et marchandises qu’il nous faut. C’est avec ce principe que le système capitaliste fonctionne : nous respectons ce qui est appelé le “prix” de quelque chose que nous voulons acquérir et nous procédons au règlement de la facture.

D’un côté, l’acheteur donne le montant précis à celui qui propose ses articles échangeables. De l’autre côté, le vendeur garantit la qualité de l’objet pour lequel l’acheteur a payé. C’est grâce à la confiance mutuelle (supposée) que nos intérêts sont protégés. En général, c’est cette même confiance qui nous permet  d’être contents et d’aspirer à un environnement sans conflit.

La semaine du 13 juin, j’ai accepté une proposition de travailler en tant que traductrice Filipino.

Une de mes connaissances m’a renvoyé un courriel d’une société de production audiovisuelle parisienne qui cherchait un “traducteur de Tagalog pour accompagner notre réalisatrice lors de son dérushage* les 13 et 14 juin, avec éventuellement un ou deux jours de plus”.

J’ai pensé que cette expérience serait intéressante pour moi. Principalement, j’avais envie de tester et de pratiquer ma capacité de parler français. Je pensais aussi à développer mes compétences et à faire une petite contribution au monde de la culture. De plus, c’était une façon de rester “en contact” avec mon pays d’origine.

Je n’ai même pas demandé tout de suite combien et comment je serais payée. Je faisais confiance aux qualités qui sont souvent attachées aux Français – le professionnalisme et le respecte scrupuleux des formes (selon le dictionnaire en ligne de Larousse : le formalisme). Bien sûr que la compensation est importante. Mais je ne suis pas une traductrice professionnelle, donc je me suis dit que tant qu’il me reste un petit peu d’argent après les charges et les autres dépenses (les billets de transport, le repas et le paiement de babysitter), cela vaudrait le coup.

Après avoir bien réfléchi, j’ai décidé que j’étais intéressée. Pourtant, je garde mon enfant de 8 mois et j’ai dû demander certaines conditions par rapport aux heures que j’allais travailler. Puisque la société était d’accord avec mes conditions, j’ai pris l’engagement.

Le premier jour de travail, au moment où je suis arrivée au bureau, j’aurais dû me dire que quelque chose n’allait pas bien.

Je veux dire :

  1. La personne avec qui j’ai parlé ne se trouvait pas au bureau. Il n’a même pas laissé un message à ses collègues et personne dans l’équipe de production n’était au courant qu’une traductrice viendrait ce jour-là. On remarque déjà un manque de formalisme.
  2. La réalisatrice est arrivée 20 minutes en retard sans laisser un mot aux assistantes/secrétaires. J’ai attendu sans savoir à quelle heure on allait commencer. J’ai été déconcertée par cette faiblesse de professionnalisme lors du premier jour de travail.
  3. J’ai commencé à travailler sans avoir rien signé. Je reconnais que la lucidité chez moi n’abondait pas non plus.
  4. J’ai dû attendre jusqu’à l’après-midi pour que quelqu’un puisse m’expliquer comment je serais payée. Comment ai-je pu supporter telle carence de formalisme et de professionnalisme sans rien dire ? Comment ai-je été si bête ?

Il est important que j’explique ma conversation avec le collègue de mon contact (Monsieur P) par rapport à la compensation : tout d’abord, la société ne paie pas un salaire mais il paie pour un concept de droits d’auteur**. Puis, le montant serait 100€ par jour, pour 8 heures de travail. À ce moment-là, j’ai clarifié que je ne travaillerais que 5 heures par jour. Il m’a dit qu’ils allaient me payer 100€ à partir de la 5ème heure travaillée et, sinon, 50€ (la moitié). J’ai fait un calcul rapide et j’ai décidé que cela irait. Un total de 380€ à peu près serait raisonnable.

Pour me rassurer, j’ai exprimé mes doutes : j’ai dit que j’avais l’impression qu’ils allaient faire un prorata (ou la partie proportionnelle) des heures que j’allais déclarer effectivement. Mais, monsieur a insisté qu’ils allaient calculer à partir de l’heure 5 pour payer les 100€.

Alors, même sans aucun document qui prouvait ce qu’il venait de dire, j’étais d’accord. J’ai pensé toujours au professionnalisme et au formalisme vantés par les gens d’ici (cela fait plus de 2 ans que j’habite à Paris, et pour cette raison je me considère crédible quand je dis ce genre de choses). Je me suis mise dans la salle de dérushages et j’ai commencé à traduire avec la réalisatrice.

Le temps passé dans la salle a été vraiment fructueux.

J’ai appris certains détails sur le journalisme qui semblaient banaux mais qui sont vitaux pour pouvoir faire un bon reportage. J’ai aimé cela. Surtout, le sujet du reportage était proche à mes souvenirs de l’enfance. Donc cela va de soi : je me suis amusée. En outre, je me suis sentie utile et productive.

Malheureusement, je n’étais pas capable de traduire tous les vidéos à ce moment-là. Il y a eu des problèmes techniques et j’ai eu des difficultés au moment de comprendre ce que les sujets voulaient dire (j’ai donc parlé avec la réalisatrice : les sujets ne parlaient pas dans leur langue maternelle et donc, elles utilisaient souvent des termes équivalents à “machin”, “truc”, “chose”, “bidule”, etc…).  Mais nous avons  trouvé une solution : ils m’ont envoyé les vidéos et j’ai continué les traductions chez moi.

Donc, j’ai travaillé. Il faut dire que quand je donne ma parole, je rends. J’ai dédié beaucoup de temps à finir les traductions et cela m’a pris un total de 20 heures travaillées, réparties sur 3 jours.

La réalisatrice ne m’a donné aucun feedback mais je suis convaincue d’avoir fait un bon travail : j’ai mis les time codes tous les 30-40 secondes environ, j’ai marqué les time codes pour la version originale et pour la version traduite, j’ai révisé mon travail et j’ai réécouté certaines parties des vidéos pour être sûre d’avoir bien compris. Surtout, j’ai envoyé les livrables ponctuellement… J’en étais fière.

À vrai dire, tout s’était bien passé jusqu’au moment du paiement.

J’ai reçu un virement dans mon compte bancaire de la société de production, mais le montant n’était pas celui que j’avais prévu. En fait, c’était presque la moitié de ce que j’avais calculé !

Immédiatement, j’ai contacté Monsieur P. Je lui ai posé la question et en effet, il m’a confirmé qu’il a fait un calcul du paiement proportionnel aux heures que j’ai déclarées. J’ai expliqué que son collègue m’avait affirmé qu’ils allaient faire justement le contraire. J’ai insisté sur ce point car, honnêtement, je n’aurais pas accepté le travail proposé si j’allais dépenser plus que ce que j’allais gagner. Nous avons fini la conversation, étant d’accord de la reprendre 2 jours plus tard après avoir clarifié avec son directeur comment il fallait calculer le paiement.

Monsieur P m’a demandé aussi de justifier pour quoi j’avais mis 3 jours pour faire une traduction de vidéos dont la durée n’est que 30 minutes. À mon avis cette demande d’explication est pertinente, surtout s’il s’agit de savoir comment régler une prestation de service. À ce titre, j’ai expliqué que comme je ne suis pas une traductrice professionnelle, j’ai dû transcrire toutes les conversations avant de pouvoir les traduire.

Néanmoins, il a dit quelque chose qui m’a tellement étonné : il lui a semblé que 3 jours pour traduire une conversation de 30 minutes était excessif. Alors, j’ai répondu disant, i) Il est possible que la réalisatrice puisse avoir oublié qu’elle m’avait demandé de traduire un autre fichier (vidéo) dont la durée était plus d’une heure, et ii) Qu’en fait “je garde mon enfant de 8 mois et cela ne me vaut pas la peine de faire quelques minutes de plus en échange d’un petit peu plus de rémunération.”

Finalement, il a dit que la société de production me paierait une journée de plus pour la semaine du 13 juin. Pour les autres traductions, je serais rémunérée pour 2 jours de travail. Il restait encore une demi-journée de travail à régler. Il m’avait expliqué pourquoi ils n’allaient pas me le payer. En toute vérité, je ne me souviens plus de ce qu’il m’a dit,  il y avait beaucoup de bruit en background (mais j’ai cru  avoir entendu quelque chose du type “Comme ça on est tous contents”). Peut-être j’étais déjà fatiguée et je me suis rendue compte que je commençais à perdre mon temps …

La réalisatrice a répondu aussi la question et elle m’a écrit, “… 13h pour traduire 30 minutes ça n est juste pas le taux horaire. Normalement 30 minutes c est une demijournée maximum. Donc je suis sure qu’il y a des circonstances personnelles mais on n avait absolument pas anticipé que ça vous prendrai autant de temps de traduire juste 30 minutes!

Le budget sur ce film est extrêmement limité; notre camerawoman a été payée 15 jours pour 22 de travail donc vraiment je pense qu’ils ont fait le maximum de ce qu’ils pouvaient.” (Est-ce mon problème?)

Je leur ai remercié et j’ai dit que je leur offrais les 4 heures travaillées comme si j’avais fait une activité de bienfaisance.

Fin de l’histoire concernant mes employeurs.

Je suis consciente que la responsabilité finale de garantir mes intérêts reste sur moi.

Je ne tiens pas quelqu’un d’autre coupable de cette mauvaise expérience. J’aurais dû clarifier tout ce qui était lié à la rémunération avant d’avoir commencé à travailler. Je me suis trompée d’avoir fait trop de confiance. Eh bien ! lesson learned. Mais, c’est dommage.

C’est dommage parce que maintenant je me sens découragée de reprendre une proposition de traduction avec cette société de production.  En plus, j’ai la responsabilité de donner un préavis à tous ceux qui pensent à faire ce type de travail. Si vous êtes intéressés, laissez-moi un message et je vous donnerais plus de détails.

C’est dommage car le bon sens dicte de respecter le prix accordé pour une prestation de service bien rendue (j’ai parlé plusieurs fois avec eux et ils n’ont jamais été mécontents de mon travail). En fait, c’est exactement ce que je fais avec la babysitter de mon enfant. Je veux dire : puisque je suis contente de son travail, je lui paie respectant le prix que nous avons accordé dès le premier jour.

C’est dommage parce que j’ai pensé qu’une petite entreprise gérée par des jeunes professionnels récompenserait intègrement le travail acharné.

Surtout c’est dommage car je n’ai pas trop observé la pratique ni du professionnalisme, ni du formalisme. Et donc, j’ai pris conscience que ces qualités ne sont pas du tout liées à la nationalité sinon à la personne elle-même.

Fin de mon histoire.


Il me semble qu’au moins, dans le générique du reportage ils pourraient mettre mon nom et prénom avec de grosses lettres et, même en rouge. Comme ça :

Responsables de Traduction

Elena Gnou del Bosque

Kho Jones




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Image courtesy of: http://inciclopedia.wikia.com

* Le dérushage est la première étape du montage d’un programme audiovisuel ; cela consiste à sélectionner les séquences à utiliser lors du montage, appelés rushes et à les transférer sur la plate-forme de montage (Wikipédia).

** En fait, au lieu d’un bulletin de paie je recevrais une note de droits d’auteur pour la présenter avec la déclaration de revenus l’année prochaine.



Things I’d Tell My Career Coach (if I had one)

One of my greater weaknesses is that I don’t know how to express my professional achievements. In some way, my cultural background might have had a little influence on this defect.

As I was growing up, me and my peers were discouraged to mention any praise towards ourselves and we were careful not to sound too boastful about our qualities; lest we wanted to be branded as airheaded kids. The expression in Tagalog literally translates as “Don’t carry your own bench” (“Huwag kang mabuhat ng sarili mong bangko”).

Apparently this saying is derived from Proverbs 27:2 which means “let not your own mouth praise you”. This passage was supposed to teach humility but I guess the elders of our yesteryears weren’t keen on differentiating between self-praise and self-esteem, both of which I believe are healthy practices, given that they are done in moderation.

If I listened to that kind of advice, then who will carry my own bench if not me? isn’t that why it is referred to as “my own”? Therefore, the responsibility clearly falls upon me. The bench of course, is a metaphor of one’s qualities and good traits and to carry it means to lift it higher from everyone else’s perspective so it could be seen and maybe even appreciated.

In my opinion, as long as truths are being told, there should be no harm in letting people know what a good-quality bench you own. Who knows? upon seeing it, others could be inspired to improve themselves and achieve the same things…

Old habits are hard to break but I believe that technique and practice could overcome any kind of quirk. I’m coming up with an actual list of achievements with which to further attract recruiters.

Another thing I’ve been bothered about is the dichotomy of Competence and Warmth. I mention this in relation to the job interviews I’ve recently had  (and did not pass- tee hee!) and which of the two aspects I tend to project more.

Ever since I read this article from the INSEAD Knowledge page, it has been months since it got me to thinking about my own “communicator profile”. Although I don’t believe in the strict definition of people’s personalities, the content of that post has helped me better understand my own self.

What has been an eye-opener is that during an experiment, the research team found out that listeners- or those on the receiving end of a communication- with a feeling of high power lean towards messages emphasizing competence and skills. While “low-power” audiences prefer those which projected warmth and established connection.

Looking back, the interviews I’ve had were for jobs which demanded high level of competence and efficiency. The interviewers were, consequently people who perceive themselves powerful. However, in all of them I gravitated towards projecting more warmth than competence.

As in the case of self-esteem, this could also be a product of the different “happy” and “warm” cultures I grew up in… which is a very safe and comfortable reaction, if you ask me. But realistically, there comes a point where the individual makes the choice of acting a certain way or another.

In my situation, it was my conscious decision to show competence and warmth at the same time. But being a naturally warm person, I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up projecting more of the latter than the former.

The reason for all this is that I’ve learned to value good companionship over competence through the years. This is not to say I don’t value competence. Simply put, I find that competence is already measureable by various technical assessments. If the recruitment team wanted to test my knowledge on a subject matter, they would find ways to subtly or openly do so. The results would then speak for themselves.

On the contrary, good characteristic traits, one’s quality as a team player or an open attitude for learning…? 30 minutes is not enough to display all those! Such a feat would require a good grasp of some tough interpersonal skills. Personality tests can only reveal so much…

Before any misunderstanding takes place, let me clarify by saying that I do not consider myself able to demonstrate all those qualities in my past interviews. What I’m trying to say is right now, I’m working towards achieving it. Hence, another reason for the higher warmth-competence projection ratio. Given that the technical part of the jobs I apply for is already familiar to me, I have decided to allot more time and resources in bettering another set of abilities that could also enrich me as a person in the meantime.

I must be doing something wrong, though. Because I never got a call back from the interviewers.

Finally I would like to let you know that ever since Brexit, I’ve been itching to write to this Senior Researcher from one of my job interviews to tell her, “I told you so”. She asked me about my opinion on the EU and if I believed it would stand the various crises it is facing right now. I told her I didn’t think so.

Yes, I admit that I lacked eloquence at the moment but I would so terribly like to ask about her opinion on the EU now. Her nationality of course is a tell-tale sign that she’s pro-EU. She wasn’t convinced of my response as to why I wasn’t optimistic about it, yet when I returned the question her answer was even more vague. I was thinking: perhaps in the light of the recent events she could find better words to defend her stance.

Would you advise me against it, or should I follow my heart? (or instinct, or thirst for knowledge, or that part of me that wants to tell her “neener neener neener”)


A Short Note On: Mastering a Language

I was once told that the moment you could express anger in a foreign tounge, then you can be considered highly-skilled in speaking that language. It was only two weeks ago when I realized that albeit the truth behind this principle, HUMOR has proven to me the best way to improve my communication skills.

A quick background

I hail from a nation of story-tellers, so the desire to understand different languages comes from my fascination with recited tales of adventures, droll anecdotes and parables offering moral lessons. All the better if these stories are based on true to life experiences!

Suddenly, there came a time when I also yearned to share stories of my own (remember when I said I talked too much?). I noticed then, that the more I got to know a language the more I felt attracted towards it. This attraction is currently making me want to better my abilities. And in principle, the best way to do this is to spend time in a place where the said language is widely spoken or a place where that language is native to.

But in real life…

… the manner of speaking and being understood vary according to culture*.

Communicating is really not as easy as textbooks describe, even if one is lucky enough to be able to practice in the language’s native land. As a result, foreigners who are trying to succesfully communicate in a new tounge must exert an effort to establish a connection with the native speakers.

In the Philippines, this is achieved through a smile preceding any question or comment. In France, one connects through la politesse (politeness)**. In Colombia, the tone and melody of the voice set the scene***. In Spain, people also make it a point to be polite but it seems to me they talk more directly to the point.

No matter what kind of connection sets the stage for communication, it cannot be argued that life generally presents us with more opportunities to use humor (unless you live in a conflictive or famined area). It may be in the form of wit, light banter or joke.

Continuing with the examples: French people seem very serious but they are also susceptible to good-natured teasing (especially when the weather is “not bad”). The Colombians and Filipinos share a very similar sense of humor (we all love jokes with double meanings), while the Spanish style could range from being witty to total absurdity (look for Miguel Gila and Martes y Trece, respectively).

So wouldn’t it be easier to make our way into a labyrinth of vocabulary and grammar through amusement?

(And perhaps a bottle of beer or a glass of wine…?)

I don’t doubt that verbalizing anger helps master a language. After all, it taps into our most primordial feelings and connects them to that new system of words. But practicality-wise, to whom would we vent our anger out for language skills improvement? Our partners or housemates? A public servant? The butcher? The baker? The candlestick maker? And even if we are able to find someone to “practice with”, would they really give an assessment on how we might have constructed the sentence? Because, digo yo, self-evaluation doesn’t count…

Isn’t humor a much better connector than anger?

A differing opinion

According to my husband, I may have a point. However, he also stressed that the words spoken in the heat of the moment “arise from the soul” and break out automatically. So if a person naturally blurts words of anger in a foreign language, this means that the language has taken such roots into the subconscious that it could be easily accessed to voice out strong emotions.

I agree. Anger might be more effective. Yet as I’ve mentioned before, it may not necessarily be more efficient. At the end of the day, it depends on what objective a person has in learning a new language: does he simply want to speak it, or does he want to use it to communicate with others?

In my opinion when someone is angry, oftentimes he just wants to send everyone to “where the devil lost his poncho” and leave- perhaps without even waiting for the other person to respond. This describes a situation where the speaker utters whatever is needed and doesn’t necessarily need a reply; this is not communication. Whereas, within a fun atmosphere there is a lively exchange of stories, reactions and impressions among people. Besides, feedback is more accessible. This is communication.

In my own words

I don’t consider myself a “master” of any language. I am honestly nowhere near that. Even with regards to my mother tounge (Tagalog), I have to admit I still have a lot to learn.

I do, however celebrate my mini-victories during the times when I am able to grasp French humor or on occasions when I make my Spanish parents in-law laugh.


* For example, I learned how to speak Spanish in Spain, but when I went to Colombia… TENAZ! Whatta difference the Atlantic makes!

** It is compulsory to greet “Bonjour” before starting any kind of conversation with anyone. It is also important that you wish the other “Bonne journée”- or whatever is applicable- after bidding goodbye.

** If you are speaking to someone with who you regularly see like a co-worker or a client, it would be highly appreciated if you asked them first how they are doing, how their family is doing, etc…

Basic Skills as Basic Tools

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Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.
– Confucius


Everytime I share some kind of trivia in family gatherings, my sister S and my father M would always ask, “How did you know that?”. As an adolescent I would always reply, “Because I’m smart!” But now as an adult I realized that I really am not all that.

True, I have been blessed with a very good memory which helps retain anything of my interest (it has also allowed me to win a few quiz bees back in the day). For the longest time, I counted on memorization to gain information. However, pregnancy, motherhood and all the hormones involved must have done something to my brain: I can feel my capacity of recollection slowly wane. This is how I came to see that there are other methods for learning and they are actually very much within my reach!

Somehow, somewhere along the way I discovered that a few basic skills could be turned into very dependable tools for my continual search of knowledge.


I first learned how to read when I was 5. I will never forget the first story book I read with my mother E- Pamilya Ismid. Papá will unbelievingly shake his head if I told this to him, but I swear I could still remember the awesome feeling I got when I became aware that I COULD READ! It was as if a whole new world opened up before me- a world made up of endless halls decked with numerous doors waiting to be opened.

So I read and read and read some more… my parents would insist on diversifying my library while I pushed for my preference to simply complete my collection of a certain series about twin sisters. Thank goodness my parents were persistent and did not give in! You see, I didn’t know until several years ago that there are actually two kinds of literacy:

Simple literacy is the ability of a person to read and write with understanding a simple message in any language or dialect.

Functional literacy, meanwhile, is a significantly higher level of literacy that includes not only reading and writing skills, but also numeracy (the ‘rithmetic that completes the ‘three Rs’), which leads to a higher order of thinking that allows persons to participate more meaningfully in life situations requiring a reasonable capacity to communicate in a written language.”

– Juan Miguel Luz, A nation of nonreaders

It was only in college where I found out that the kind of materials you read actually mattered- a lot. I met many fellow students who may not be very eloquent, yet their arguments had structure and logic (and sense, of course). I envied them but I just associated it with the superior Spanish educational system and never made any connection with what type of reading they did. Because of this, I continued with life without really developing the functional aspect of reading.

Although something inside me was already aware that it’s not the same to read Nancy Drew mysteries or Noli Me Tangere or a Trigonometry Manual, at the time I simply didn’t care. Consequently, it took me quite a while to reach a “higher order of thinking”.

Come 2008 when I was admitted to my Master’s Degree. Reality struck quite hard: knowing how to read matters even more. There were so many interesting materials to be studied and of varying subjects, too, that it overwhelmed me at one point.

This made me recall how much I laughed at my parents (I was 14, alright?) and told them how funny they seem reading a book entitled “How to Read a Book”. I remember finally admitting to myself that the idea wasn’t silly at all. Ah yes, the joke was on me because had I known then how to effectively read, I would have been more productive and perhaps I would have better contributed to past debates and brainstorming sessions. (Although, I can’t help but think that perhaps the author could’ve entitled the book “How to read effectively”?)

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Fast forward to the present time… I find myself in a new country, under totally new circumstances, but with the same childlike eagerness to learn how to read. Say what you want about the French, but these people READ. If you’re a book lover/hoarder just like me, come to Paris and you’ll see more than a couple of bookstores in one street as well as specialized stores for classical, hardbound editions. Likewise, you could find used books at more than half the price, and some really old ones that are worth 50 cents of a euro; plus if you’re lucky enough, you could find free books in the streets or in bus stops (you can also leave your own pre-loved books for others to enjoy)!

I used to wonder what made them read so much*. From what I’m seeing, for them reading is a habit borne out of necessity. In the short time that I’ve been acquainted to the language, I observed that the French grammar is so complex, one must read and re-read anything written so as to avoid any misunderstanding. Now, this is only my opinion, but I recall “complaining” to my French teachers before because it seemed like there were more exceptions than there are rules, concerning the written language**. Thus, reading is a basic, vital skill for one to thrive in this setting.

Back in the Philippines and even in Spain, I never once stopped to mind any notice on cork boards or almost any type of announcement. People just find a way to get hold of the message through neighbors and peers. Not in France. Maybe it’s because this is a more individualistic society (something to be certainly be discussed in another post). The thing is, now I read EVERYTHING, ANYTHING that is posted in the walls of our building, the grocery glass doors, the vandalism on the streets… just in case. And more often than not, I actually learn one new thing before I go to sleep.


I speak 3 foreign languages and in all of them, there is a clear distinction between: hearing and listening, oír y escuchar, and écouter et entendre.

The first words of each pair  mean “to be aware of sound through the ear” while the second ones mean “to pay attention”. The former seems to be a passive activity, the latter requires a more active involvement.

As a child and a teenager, I didn’t really excel in listening as much as I could have done. I talked a lot. I talked so much, I got chosen as one of the Northern Mindanao representatives for a national extemporaneous speech contest.During the moments I did listen, I filtered between interesting and uninteresting, and only tuned in to what caught my attention. And then almost immediately, I would go back to talking.

Adulthood has taught me that as a responsible citizen, it is my obligation to listen to many things, including those that don’t necessarily interest me. It is informative, it is enriching and it gives a clear basis for any argument I may wish to express. For this to be possible, it is imperative to know how to listen.

Eventually, I learned to listen when I was 28 years old after I enrolled in a Bikram Yoga class. This exercise, based on active meditation is only feasible with open ears and a clear mind. It is not always easy to clear the mind, but opening the ears is achievable. Listening, just like any other skill, could be enhanced through repetitive practice. So after one year and a half of constant training, I was finally beginning to listen.

Strange as it might sound, thanks to this, I’ve never enjoyed going on job interviews as much as I am doing now. For some topics I thought I knew fairly well, I discovered so many fine points that are easily overlooked. As a result, two of those meetings have given me several ideas for future blog entries. It’s a pity I won’t get to work with such bright people, so in the meantime I’ll make myself busy by diffusing what they shared with me.

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Online, I found heaps of guidelines and principles for effective listening. Let me share those that I consider indispensable if we want to increase understanding:

Stop talking

If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.

-Mark Twain

Clear enough. Next.

Be patient

In Spain (at least from the Central Plateau southwards), Germans have always been viewed as very polite and formal people. The reason being that they patiently wait for the other person to finish talking before they speak. This is of course very unlike the Spanish, who are known for their passionate nature (well, some of them) and who would cut the other in mid-sentence to prove a point.

Well, my very knowledgeable friend J (I call him the “Walking Encyclopedia”) told me that Germans do it actually out of habit. I don’t speak German but according to him, the grammar is such that the verb is located at the end of the sentence!*** So logically, they would have to know what entirely happened before they could even form an opinion inside their heads.

(Pause for polite laughter)

Whatever the reason is, it doesn’t mean that patience should be taken for granted. A true seeker of knowledge would apply this principle for the sake of being taught something new.

An everyday affair

Needless to say, one of the many things I am grateful for at this time of my life is the opportunity I have to practice reading and listening. The fact that I’m living in a foreign country, that I have to hone my ability to speak its native language and most of all, that a tiny person’s life depends on me forces me to:

i) read, re-read and read again as many times as I have to, and

ii) to listen very intently to whatever anyone says to me

These are exciting times, indeed. And I can’t help but insist on how thankful I am because I’m not sure I’d be doing the same if motherhood and unemployment simultaneously found me in any of my comfort zones (geographically speaking)…




* Here, let me echo host and blogger Lourd de Veyra, “We read not because of the message, but because it feels good to read. It’s ‘delicious’ to ‘feed’ on words. It feels good to drown in sentences that are very well sewn together. There are words that could make you drunk, or worse. Is it too much? I don’t think so. Some people get addicted to Candy Crush. You could also get addicted to words and written words. Everything could be developed.” (Translated from Tagalog)

**For an easier explanation, let’s just say that spoken French and written French are like two dialects of the same language. If you believe that the spoken French is beautiful, then you might just cry tears of joy if you get the chance to read the “masters” in original version (Hugo, Dumas, Camus, etc…)

*** According to Wikipedia: “The main sentence structure rule is that the conjugated verb is the second element in a main clause or the last in a subordinate clause. Verbs in the infinitive are generally placed after their respective objects.”



  1. “A nation of nonreaders”, by Juan Miguel Luz, available at: http://pcij.org/stories/a-nation-of-nonreaders/
  2. “Hoy, basahin mo ‘to”, by Lourd de Veyra, available at: http://www.spot.ph/this-is-a-crazy-planets/53357/hoy-basahin-mo-to
  3. “Spoken vs Written French: The 5 Differences You Need to Know”, available at: https://frenchtogether.com/differences-written-spoken-french/
  4. Quora: Why are written and spoken French so different? available at: https://www.quora.com/Why-are-written-and-spoken-French-so-different
  5. http://www.merriam-webster.com/
  6. Listening Skills, available at: http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/listening-skills.html
  7. Wikipedia