Episode Description

Arian and Moh discuss communication styles, and recall anecodtes and accounts of miscommunication that due to various barriers in language.

Arian Eskandarinejad

Arian works as a volunteer at 3ZZZ for the Iranian program, presenting a movie review show. He arrived in Australia in 2017 and
after studying at highschool and then University, he earned his bachelor’s degree in IT.Aside from studying, he’s been working in various sectors including restaurant, tutoring and retail and business assisting.

Produced by Moh Javin. Moh first arrived to Australia as an Asylum Seeker in 2012, previously working in Iran in the film industry as a set designer, actor and dubber.

Moh is also a member of the 3ZZZ broadcasters, and enjoys radio presenting, theatre, acting and dubbing. 


Please note this transcript is automatically generated and may contain errors

Moh Javin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Stories of Community Resilience. This is Moh from 3ZZZ And here with me is Arian. Arian. (Come on, try your best) Arian Eskandarinejad, who also works for 3ZZZ. And we are going to talk about language barriers tonight. How are you, Arian?

Arian Eskandarinejad: Hello, Mo. Thanks for having me tonight. It’s a really beautiful night in Melbourne. I mean, two hours ago it was a really heavy rain, which was annoying, but now it’s good. My name is Arian. I’m from the Iranian program in Radio 3ZZZ we’re having a movie review show every second week in our Iranian program, which we do review for mostly new movies.

Moh Javin: Is it in Farsi or in English?

Arian Eskandarinejad: It is in Farsi.

Moh Javin: Sometimes we need to use English terms in those, uh, shows as well, which is quite relevant to our topic tonight, which is language barriers. You also mentioned my last name, Eskandarinejad Yes, as a matter of fact, my last name was the hardest last name during my high school to pronounce. Most of the people could not pronounce it. we made so many funny stories about that. So my last name is Eskandari Nejad. It’s consists of two parts Esakandar, which is Alexander in English and Nejad, which means heritage or family. So it means that I’m Arian who is from the heritage of Alexander.

Moh Javin: So you saying to me that you are from the royal family of ancient Macedonia?

Arian Eskandarinejad: No, that’s just a name that has been assigned to me, you know what I’m saying? Let me first talk about my own background. So I came here when I was 16 year old boy in middle of 2017. I started Year 10 here, and now, the interesting fact is that I finished year ten in Iran, my back home country. But when I arrived in Australia, it was already in the middle of the educational year and so I needed to repeat the second semester of Year 10. I started from there and I did my university and now I’m here, uh

during my life in Australia. Well, as we know, Australia is a multicultural country and we’ve got different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds coming around here. And one of the main components of this living together is verbal and non-verbal communication. Which makes language barriers a really important topic in many communications. According to my own personal witnesses, a lot of, uh, conflicts or different communication difficulties and problems is due to the language barriers.  Before I go much more deep into it, I want to start the topic with a really tragic story. And Moh, I ask you, do you know what has been the worst or most fatal airplane crash in the history?

Moh Javin: Are you? Have you heard of the recent one in the happened in Iran a couple of the nearly 1 or 2 years ago?

Arian Eskandarinejad: No, actually, it’s nothing. 1 or 2 years ago. It’s in 1977, March 27th, 1977. It happened in Canary Islands. If you know where it is, it’s in Spain. Yeah, I know. And it happened in Tenerife airport, if I’m correct. In pronunciation. So the story goes with this. Uh, we had two airplanes. One was KLM. That was the name of the airplane. Well, not the abbreviated name of it, of course. And the other plane was Pan Am. Klm mostly had Dutch air crew. Right. So they spoke Dutch as the primary language. But since it’s airport, everyone needs to speak English. Right, for the communication. The KLM contact. I mean, one of the air crews, the co-pilot, I think so contacted the tower and said in a heavy Dutch accent that we are now at the take off. Right. Okay. When the tower crew heard that statement, they were they thought that the KLM is stopped and ready for the order to do the take off. But what the co-pilot actually meant was that the airplane is already moving. And on the other hand, the Pan Am was in the way of KL, so there was a probability of the Clash and unfortunately the Clash happened. Kl a KLM. Collided with Pan Am and it killed around 583 people. It has been the most fatal air crash in the history, and that is due to the language barrier.

Moh Javin: That is really tragic, isn’t it?

Arian Eskandarinejad: Yeah, it is. It is so tragic. And it shows that how sometimes language barrier can be this can cause these tragic events. And the main reason behind that was because the air crew, although they knew English, they could speak English fluently, but because they used a bad wording and bad grammar, the air crew could not understand it. On the other hand, the air crew themselves were Portuguese, they were from Portugal, and so both sides did not speak English as their primary language. That even added more confusion to the whole dialogue, which unfortunately caused this tragic incident. I bet you didn’t know that, did you?

Moh Javin: No, I didn’t know that. But that got me thinking, when you first came to Australia, did you face any language barriers the initial year that you studied here?

Arian Eskandarinejad: Actually, it was in the first 6 or 7 months as an international student who I mean, the high school I attended, I was one of the few students who were from the Middle East, so I did not have so many people to talk to in at least in my own native language. I was pushed to speak in English and that made me be in the language barrier situations more often than many other international students. I was mostly in conversations with local Australian students means the people who were born and raised here and during these conversations, I’ve encountered many situations where a bit confusing for me. I give you one example. My grandmother, who was a really, I would say traditional woman, and she bought me a ring, right? It kind of ring that was so precious to her and for the respect of her I also wear the ring all the time, it brought attention for many Australian friends. And one of them one time asked me that “what is that s*** word that you’re wearing? » So s word, you know, S word, which is a really bad word in English. And when I heard that word, I was super offended and I was almost in a kind of fight with that person because I did not know that when an Australian guy, an Aussie guy, used that word in that type of content, he doesn’t mean any kind of offence. He’s just it just necessarily means ‘thing’, you know.

Moh Javin: Just confused what it means to you.

Arian Eskandarinejad: Yeah. Uh, so that was a really funny example I had.

Moh Javin: That’s one of the things that’s very interesting that you brought it up because we are both from Iran. Yeah. And we have this thick Iranian accent when we talk English, right? Yeah. And, and in Australia, they have this Aussie accent, which is like when you, when you learn English in Iran, you usually learn it in American accent or British accent. But when you come to Australia, everything is just from another world. It’s very, very different. How do you live with your Iranian accent and how does it influence your life and study and everything else in Australia?

Arian Eskandarinejad: It’s a really complex and broad questions. You know, the thing is, uh, I would say, according to my experience, this is what you need to observe for both sides. First, you need to observe it from a migrant’s point of view. A person who’s new to this country when I’m saying new, it means a person who is from a different background in Australia and also from the local people’s view. And the thing is that although Australia is a multicultural country, sometimes this multiculturalism can be interpreted as different sites of isolation. It means you can see a person who’s been here, for example, for two, 20 years, 30 years, which is quite a long time. But when you look at his or her life. That person is still in his or her own country’s cultural life. For example, the person always hang out with if, for example, he’s Iranian, he always hang out with Iranian friends. He’s got, you know, always have Iranian food, Iranian business, not really much interaction with the local people from Australia. And this is what sometimes can bring you advantages or disadvantages. But language barriers is something that’s going to happen to us in different levels anyway. And for Australia, for example, the language barriers mostly comes with wording which I gave the example about and also about the voice and the tone that they use. For example, if you go on public transport and Australian people may be much more open in order to do conversation with each other, but for example, for people from Middle East or some other countries, they may prefer to have kind of more silent conversation, you know what I’m saying? It’s a kind of different openness to the conversation that they’ve got. And some people are more open to the conversation. And some migrants that I’ve seen, they’re a bit, how do say, more conservative in order to open a conversation. This is my own experience. I don’t know what you think about it.

Moh Javin: Well, I’ve noticed that people are a little bit louder in in talking when you’re in public transport in Australia, people are just talking a little bit in louder voice.

Arian Eskandarinejad: Super extrovert, isn’t it?

Moh Javin: Yeah, Well, from in my culture we are not that loud. Usually if you are that loud, you attracting a lot of attention to yourself. So and that brings up another thing that, you know, maybe that’s something cultural because our culture is a little bit more conservative and Australian culture is a little bit more straightforward. Maybe that reflects in the language as well. Do you agree or do you have a different view?

Arian Eskandarinejad: Well, yeah, of course. I would say I would agree with that, particularly in an important topic of being straightforward, which is quite a big deal for many migrants here. As a matter of fact, one of the factors I assess language barriers and language use for different ethnicities and different backgrounds is there kind of a straightforwardness in their language? And for example, in Iran, it’s hard for us many times to say no or yes directly. We usually give reason and try to, you know, do it a bit more smoothly. But when you talk, (you’re laughing). So I think you know what I’m talking about. But when it comes to an Aussie person, he’s much more direct and straightforward, which sometimes may be interpreted as rude. But sometimes we need to really appreciate that because that person is at least giving us a direct answer which not going to waste our time anymore. Right?

Moh Javin: Well, personally, I prefer the straightforwardness because in our culture we have to be considerate of a lot of things. We have to be considered that you’re not going to actually hurt anyone’s feelings, which sometimes has a lot of disadvantages because most of the time you’re not going to tell the person what you think. We have a lot of humour about. Like when someone comes into your place and you want to go to sleep, you want to go to bed, but you cannot tell them to leave directly because it’s considered rude. So sometimes you have to wake up till like 2 or 3 a.m. when you have work at 6 a.m. and you can’t even tell them, I’m going to go to work tomorrow. Could you please leave? Because they probably not going to call you, contact you again and be your friends. But it doesn’t happen here. Like people can be really straightforward. I appreciate it. I like it.

Arian Eskandarinejad: Really.

Moh Javin: I think it makes the life easier. Yeah.

Arian Eskandarinejad: Yeah, I kind of agree with that as well, although it’s important to mention that. And usually you’re talking about like affecting emotions as well when it comes to expressing emotions. Maybe Australians are more straightforward as well, which makes that if something bad happens among them, doing an apology going to be easier, right? Saying apology or I’m sorry or something is much harder and more complex in Middle Eastern and Asian culture. It’s got a bit like do with ageism, like, for example, older guy or younger guy, you know what I’m saying? It those factors can be effective as well. But on the other hand, I would say literature is important too. Like the ancient literature we’ve got, for example, in Iran, we’ve got so many poems. Iran is actually one of the richest countries in terms of poem and poetry. Yeah, in poetry. And our poetry is so smooth and romantic, and this kind of affects our language as well. Our accent, right? Our tone of voice when we’re talking is much more smooth compared to many other accents if you pay attention.

Moh Javin: I think Farsi is a very poetic language and we have the rhythm when we speak, but it really depends from what kind of point of view you’re looking at. If you’re looking at the Farsi language from someone who speaks English as a first language, I think it has a different tone and rhythm to them. Yeah. Than to us. Yeah. So for us, obviously it sounds really beautiful. For some people it sounds also beautiful for some others. Might be a little bit different though. So you said that you studied your high school here. Yeah. For the very first year you were just hanging out with all the old people who were born and raised in Australia, and not many international students were around you and not many obviously, Iranians. So you had to work on your English a lot. Did it did it help you to actually improve your English or was it like too frustrating? Or how was it?

Arian Eskandarinejad: Uh, this is again, this is a really broad, uh, answer that I’m going to give, but I would say many people kind of make a kind of sympathy with that. First thing is that I already had a big background before coming to Australia. I was a big fan of many English songs. I’m a rock and roll fan myself. I watched so many movies in English, but the thing is that most of them were not in Australian accent, so it means for me, it developed my English, it enhanced my English, but the accent was always the most challenging part, at least for me personally. Right? And, and this made me to kind of sometimes it makes you a bit it makes you lose motivation in order to learn the accent. Because, for example, imagine you read so many books, you read so many literature, do many exams, academics. But whenever it comes to the accent and the daily Australian dialogue, you still hear some words that you you don’t know.

Moh Javin: Of, do you? Do you hear that from people again that could you please say that again? Come again? What was that? Do you do you get.

Arian Eskandarinejad: That so often? So often, actually. Sometimes they even abbreviate it. They say, pardon? Like that. That’s it.

Moh Javin: Does it annoy you or does it like make you to force yourself to actually improve your English on a daily basis, day by day?

Arian Eskandarinejad: Actually, it’s it’s so important, particularly for the people who are new to English. It makes you to rephrase what you’re saying, which not only improves your vocabulary, it improves your your grammar as well. And of course the overall communication. So I don’t have much problem with that. Yeah, because I currently work at Coles as well. So Coles is based on communication with the customers. So I’ve encountered this many times per day. So yeah, I would say yeah, that would be effective.

Moh Javin: But sometimes even having an accent like a Farsi accent when you speak English attracts a lot of people as well. I’ve encountered with a lot of people who’ve who’ve worked in Iran.

Arian Eskandarinejad: You mean in dating or what? (laughs)

Moh Javin: Might be dating as well? Why not? Yeah, but the thing is, a lot of people, when they hear your accent, they look at it as you. Where are you from? I’m from Iran. And they have a history with Iran. They’ve been there before. They had relatives there and they start I’ve been I’ve actually talked to many people who went to Iran like 40 years ago before I was born. And they tell me stories of the country I’m from that I don’t know of. Like they’ve been to cities that I’ve never been to. And this is very interesting because sometimes it can make you friends as well. I mean, it’s not all just the barriers and obstacles.

Arian Eskandarinejad: Some people here are, so they know about our country more than we know of. You know what I’m saying there.

Moh Javin: I would say that’s not the case most of the time. But yeah, sometimes.

Arian Eskandarinejad: Yeah, sometimes. Which is, which is quite fascinating for me personally. Apart from these, according to an article I read, this article was an article from Jordan University by the country Jordan, and it had some studies about the language barriers an there was a study from AIM team, which was a research team it conducted they conducted this research in 2013 and it was talking about the common barriers in communication. Right. Language barrier was the 47% of the situation of the problems for a person was the time zones, which is quite important, particularly in the, you know, the pandemic situation in the online zoom and accents, 10% and cultural differences, 45%. Now, according to the conversation, me and you had, I would say accent and and cultural differences kind of affect the language barriers, don’t they? Like they’re kind of entangled to each other.

Moh Javin: I think they are.

Arian Eskandarinejad: I mean, unless sometimes you want to talk about the nonverbal communication in our language. For example, I myself use a much so much body language when I talk, which I got it from my background. And when I talk to people with so much body language, sometimes they find me so, like, passionate. Sometimes they find me aggressive. You know what I’m saying? It’s all on me. I talk smoothly, right? And on the other hand, because my voice tone is low, sometimes it even adds more aggressiveness to the to the tone and it caused much more problem.

Moh Javin: I understand when you’re coming from because when I talk to people sometimes and they don’t get me, oh, I don’t know how to express my feelings at times I have to use my body as a language, like I have to use a lot of body language and subconsciously I’m using using it more in order to kind of reduce the amount of words that I have to put out there, because obviously and then it might increases a lot of misunderstandings as well. But, you know, it got me thinking about something else. We have a lot of second generation Persians and Iranians in Australia. Yeah. So you you encountered a family, Uh, the mother and father. They don’t speak very well English. Or do they speak with a with a thick Iranian accents?

Arian Eskandarinejad: Quite familiar, but.

Moh Javin: Yeah, but children are like, they were born here. They barely some of them at least are barely speak Farsi. But the English is perfect. So how do you think this happens and do you think that this can cause a kind of a gap between the two generation like the mother and father of migrants or the children are born here, or they came here when they were like little, and now the language barrier can cause problems inside the family.

Arian Eskandarinejad: Uh, before I answer to that question, there are some factors that lead to this kind of difference. I would say the one of the main factors is that it’s simply because of the age when your age grows, right? It’s the adaptive adaptability for you going to be harder, particularly when you migrate and you want to fit yourself to a newer culture, right? Not only you need to put pressure on yourself to learn a completely new language, which is a really difficult task. You need to make yourself adaptable to a new culture and this make many older generation, as you said, to be a more isolated from the local culture within the corresponding corresponding destination country. Uh, but I would say about the gap, it can be both advantages and also harmful. It can be advantageous good because it can make a person to be multicultural and bilingual and gives the person a vast amount of knowledge and more kind of sympathy and, uh, occurrence of the more variety of the people. On the other hand, it can be harmful because sometimes, at least according to what I’ve witnessed, the child is somehow controlled by the parents. For example, the parents got the business and they’ve got so many non, for example, Persian speaking customers. Right? And they only speak Persian. So in order to hire a translator, they need to use their child, which is a free translator. You know what I’m saying? It it sometimes can be annoying. Like the person might think that, okay, my parents don’t know English and I’ll always need to, you know, serve them because they don’t know how to speak English. And it somehow affects the children’s life in that way, which is, I would say, yeah, it’s quite harmful.

Moh Javin: But on the other hand, uh, do you think or just I have this question because sometimes I think that people who have, uh, pants from a different background, my parents speak Turkish, Azeri, they are from Azerbaijan in Iran. And I understand a little bit of that language, but I speak Farsi. So when my mom speaks to her mom in Turkish, I understand probably 20, 30% of it. Yeah. And I always wanted to know the language. So I was talking to my mom the other day. I was like, Mom, why didn’t you teach me? And she was like, Because you weren’t interested. I was like, I was a child. I didn’t know about it, but I really I now I really want to know it because I want to be connected to my grandparents. And I know the benefits of being bilingual now. So do you think it would be a good idea for parents to teach, like, for instance, for Iranian parents to teach Farsi? And because these children who were born in Australia or who raised here, who came here when they were little, they’re going to learn English anyway at a school with friends. Is it a good idea for them to learn Farsi or the mother tongue as well?

Arian Eskandarinejad: Uh, it depends on the which language you’re talking about. But for Farsi itself, I, as a matter of fact, I need to accept some dark truths, which is actually quite personal for myself. So my My aunt and my cousin lives here. My cousin is Australian, so he was born and raised in Australia and my aunt is of course Persian. He can understand Persian, but he cannot write Persian. He speaks Persian in a normal level as well. Right. But of course not as a native person. On the other hand, because of, I would say some factors, for example, first factor is that Iranian community is not really as strong in Australia, so that we have not really succeeded to introduce Persian and Iranian culture to Australia and hence make the second generation here more proud and aware of their culture. Compare ourselves, for example, to other countries which got more stronger communities like Greeks, Chinese. I don’t know. Japanese, Italians, right? If you compare the second generation in that area to Iranians, maybe you would get the answer.

Moh Javin: Mhm.

Arian Eskandarinejad: Yeah. It’s it’s really depends on the, the advertisement, you know the, the social power of different communities within, I mean different cultural communities I would say. And of course the media and sometimes the politics that is bonded with the culture which I’m not going to go into that. Yeah.

Moh Javin: I want to ask another question. In all these years that you’ve lived and studied in Australia and you recently finished your study in university, you studied?

Arian Eskandarinejad: Information technology.

Moh Javin: What helped you to overcome this? Language Barriers and obstacles that you had over these years. What was the motivation behind it and what made you go forward?

Arian Eskandarinejad: Well, more. In order to propose a solution, you need to find a first. Find a problem. Right. So I first I realized that what factors lead for me to do this kind of language barrier problems first was, of course, the accent which we talked about. The second thing which I really witnessed in many people who don’t speak English as their first language, is that they don’t simply ask. They don’t ask the person to repeat what they said. It happens to many of us. For example, we hear something in a language or an accent that we have a lack of knowledge of and we just do something for the sake of it, right?

Moh Javin: Sometimes because many times sorry for interrupting, but many times in the workplace, for instance, if you keep asking the your supervisor or your boss to actually repeat what they just said, uh, eventually they’re going to kick you out. It’s going to be annoying. You should. You, you know, you at work, everything is just super fast. And you have to be. Just be there all the time and just. They tell you something. They don’t have time to tell it again. And if you just keep asking and ask and asking, it’s not going to work. It happens to me a lot of times and I think it’s for me mainly my problem is for people to understand my accent because Iranian accent can be a little bit misleading at times. You can just tell things like we start everything. We add an A or E at the beginning [laughs] we say a school, a study, stuff like that. And we don’t have the W say V in Farsi anyway.

Arian Eskandarinejad: I understand you. As a matter of fact, the other thing, except for the vowels that we use in the language, is that sometimes local people here, they use so many local expressions and idioms, slang, words that we don’t know of and it creates more misinterpretation and it can cause, uh, more kind of confusion.

Moh Javin: I think leaving as a migrant in another country is a journey that never ends. You learn every day and you connect and find out things that are new to you.

Arian Eskandarinejad: The last thing about the solutions that you said. First of all, we need to have a really simple sentencing in our language and also ask for clarification. Don’t be afraid just to ask and say that what the person meant and think in terms of your receiver, seeing that what the person actually thinks in that kind of context, like have a kind of more sympathy in your in your conversation. And yeah, as you said, the longer you leave, the longer you have convo and conversation, the better you’re going to get. Yeah.

Moh Javin: Thanks a lot for all this information. It’s a great interview. I just wanted to ask you for the last as the last question, do you think that living in Australia and facing the barriers of mainly the language barrier has made you a stronger or not?

Arian Eskandarinejad: Of course it made me a stronger. But the thing is that when you become a stronger, it doesn’t mean that it’s not like a body building process, you know, it’s something that you suddenly think about the past and you can use and realise your transformation. And I realise that transformation, I would say, yeah, it made me a stronger when I when I compare my now myself to Ariane five years ago. Yeah, it made me stronger.

Moh Javin: Perfect. Is there anything else that you want to add to this interview Arian.

Arian Eskandarinejad: No. Thanks for the interview. And yeah, hope you. I hope you have a really lovely life.

Moh Javin: That’s it. Thank you. Thanks for being here and thanks everyone for listening to another episode of Stories of Community Resilience. Hope you have a great life too. Yeah, okay.

Arian Eskandarinejad: Thanks.

Moh Javin: All the best everyone, Thank you.


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