“The oxygen … it feels kinda thin in here,” said my friend Hiroko.
She stood there, face flushed, fanning herself with her hands.
It was a hot day, and I was at … a mothers’ group.
(If you think it’s weird for a Dad to attend a mothers’ group, I would not disagree with you. But Hayley tutors at a uni on Wednesdays, so once a week I play stay-at-home Dad and take my two kids to a playgroup, where apparently I’m the first Dad in the group in its ten years …)
But back to Hiroko, fanning her face.
“The … oxygen?” I said.
“Oxygen … like, O2.”
“Uh … are you okay?” I asked, wondering if she had some weird condition where she was sensitive to O2 levels. Maybe it was kinda like how diabetics have low blood sugar? What was I even supposed to do?
“Oh. You don’t say that in English?” she asked me.
Okay, confession time: this playgroup I take my kids to is actually a Japanese mothers’ playgroup. And we were both speaking Japanese.
She continued. “What would you say in English then?”
“Ah, I guess I’d say I feel ‘light-headed’.”
Hiroko, and her friend Yuuko standing beside her, both looked at me with stunned faces as if I’d just unveiled the deep mysteries of the universe to them.
“Raito… hededdo?” they said in unison, in their endearing Japanese accents.
“Yeah … as in, your ‘head’ feels kinda ‘light’.” I gestured with my hands as I spoke. “So, light-headed.”
They started repeating it to themselves, bobbing side-to-side as they waved their hands around their head to try and visualise it, like this was some kind of strange ritual. “Naruhodo! Raito-hededdo! Ooooooh! Raito-hededdo!”
Yes, lots of language fun for these Japanese mamas …
Now thankfully, it ain’t too hard to spot communication barriers when you’re speaking different languages.
But where most people get it wrong is that their sales copy speaks a totally different language to their customers’ — even though it’s in English.
The result is that nobody cares about what you’re selling, because you haven’t told ’em why they should.
‘Tis obvious, my dear one:
Know how your market talks about their problems … and use their exact words.
Of course, that doesn’t come naturally for a lot of people.
Which is why I am working on condensing my exact process for how I do that into a manual which I will be launching in the near-ish future.
If you want a discount when it launches, you can put your email address here: