I’m often amazed by the written communication I receive from banks, suppliers and businesses marketing their wares. Regular readers will know that I’m often horrified at the lack of proper grammar and punctuation in this correspondence. However, some letters take this to a whole other level. Today’s Enterprise post was inspired by one of them.
Some time ago, I went to my mail box (yes, remember that old thing?) to collect the usual array of shopping catalogues, bills, and even the odd letter stuffed inside. I noticed a letter from my bank, of which I had been a customer for 15 years. My salary went into this account. I even had a home loan with them.
When I opened the letter, the contents were bewildering. I literally couldn’t understand a word of it. Not one. I studied every inch of it and I dipped back into the envelope to see if I had missed an all-important page. But the result was the same. I could not understand a single sentence.
Was I going mad? Had I entered the Twilight Zone? Had I suddenly lost my capacity to read?
It was none of the above. I didn’t understand a word because the entire letter was written in Chinese characters.
Sitting at my kitchen table in Sydney, I turned the pages over and over, expecting to find the English translation somewhere. But there wasn’t a single word of English. This was confounding as the (Australian) bank had managed to write to me in English for the past 15 years.
I had no idea if the letter was informing me about a rise in interest rates. Or if there was a problem with my account. Or if they were about to shut down.
Those responsible for sending the letter must have, in their wisdom, noticed my surname and jumped to the natural conclusion that I must be able to read and write Chinese. I don’t. I’ve never been able to. And, as I subsequently informed them, they would have had better luck at least writing to me in one of the languages I learnt in school – French, German, Greek or Latin. Better still, English would probably have been the best bet.
This is a true story. I couldn’t make it up if I tried.
You can read the full post here.