Language Difficulties?

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    Language Difficulties?

    Does anybody else have communication difficulties with tenants where English is not their first language?

    My wife has Polish tenants, who, because of their poor command of English completely have the "wrong end of the stick" by thinking we are intruding, when we are only trying to sort out a few matters and help them. The problem is they only tell us a certain amount of information, thinking it's enough, and then when we delve a bit more, we find that things are a little different and we try and accommodate them accordingly.

    We can only act on the information they give but they take umbrage because the rest of the information they should have given would have meant a better understading of their situation and a different outcome would have transpired. They are now being a little difficult and that doesn't help us.

    I'm not asking for a solution as I don't want to go into detail, but I'm interested if this is an isolated case or is it more prevalent?
    The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.

    #2
    Not something I have come across with tenants, never had foreign ones!

    Have you ever through of using the services if a company like this:

    http://www.languageline.co.uk/

    I've seen them put to good use on hospital and police documentaries on TV. Not sure what their charges are, but you ring them, they get a relevant interpreter on the phone, then you ask the question, pass the phone to the tenant, they translate, tenant answers then they return the phone to you and interpreter give you the answer. Might even be an allowable expense against your tax return!

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      #3
      Originally posted by LesleyAnne View Post

      Have you ever through of using the services if a company like this:

      http://www.languageline.co.uk/
      I was going to suggest something like that, otherwise try to enlist the help of another Polish speaker in their community whose English is better. The local Catholic church might be able to help if you explain the problem (many Polish immigrants are Roman Catholic), or look for a corner store called 'Polski sklep'.

      I'm sure it would indeed be an allowable expense.
      'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

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        #4
        Yes, I have the problem with instructing my tenants to top up the water softener.

        My first African tenants were very keen on the softener, and were my only tenants who have rung me to ask for more salt.

        The next ones, a Chinese couple reckoned they couldn't find the softener, despite me labelling the kitchen cupboard 'water softener' and actually showing the wife how to put the salt in it!

        I wrote the present Turkish couple a list of instructions by letter, but the bags of salt still pile up unused where I leave them, outside the flat.

        I get the impression that tenants from countries where these items are used cooperate, but others just ignore me.

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          #5
          Originally posted by Paul_f View Post
          Does anybody else have communication difficulties with tenants where English is not their first language?
          I once had an Azerbaijani tenant with whom it was very difficult to communicate. On one occasion she complained that the hot water was running out whilst she was in the middle of showering. I duly sent a plumber to check the immersion heater was working properly. T insisted that she knew she had to switch it on, and that the water in the tank would then heat up, yet the 'problem' persisted. In the end I resorted to emailing her a written questionnaire. It turned out that she had the heater switched on for half an hour a day, that her normal length of shower was 45 minutes, and that the hot water stopped after 30 minutes.

          Then there was the time she reported that "in the shower water goes slowly". See this thread. I assumed she meant poor water pressure. Mrs Mug then pointed out that she could mean slowly down the drain, and she was right...

          BTW, T was a Masters student at King's College, London. No idea how/whether she passed the exams.

          Comment


            #6
            BTW, T was a Masters student at King's College, London. No idea how/whether she passed the exams.
            I can (with the occasional resort to a dictionary) understand Racine, but I do not know the French for plughole. I was in Paris in 1968 and was puzzled by headlines which announced that Russian chariots were in Prague - "char" means both "chariot" and "tank".

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              #7
              You can also have problems with supposedly English speakers/readers.

              Perhaps I need to translate some documants into text speak...

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                #8
                Originally posted by Lawcruncher View Post
                I can (with the occasional resort to a dictionary) understand Racine, but I do not know the French for plughole. I was in Paris in 1968 and was puzzled by headlines which announced that Russian chariots were in Prague - "char" means both "chariot" and "tank".
                Whereas 'un chariot' is a supermarket shopping trolley. Very perplexing!
                'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Paul_f View Post
                  Does anybody else have communication difficulties with tenants where English is not their first language?

                  My wife has Polish tenants, who, because of their poor command of English completely have the "wrong end of the stick" by thinking we are intruding, when we are only trying to sort out a few matters and help them. The problem is they only tell us a certain amount of information, thinking it's enough, and then when we delve a bit more, we find that things are a little different and we try and accommodate them accordingly.

                  We can only act on the information they give but they take umbrage because the rest of the information they should have given would have meant a better understading of their situation and a different outcome would have transpired. They are now being a little difficult and that doesn't help us.

                  I'm not asking for a solution as I don't want to go into detail, but I'm interested if this is an isolated case or is it more prevalent?
                  I'm having exactly the same problem with some Eastern European tenants who thought I was going to charge them for damage when they've only just moved in and are refusing to provide NI no's for checks as according to their 'witness' (actually a CAB volunteer and supposed friend) they are from Eastern Europe and thus are paranoid about the authorities!
                  Inevitably, the CAB friend has misadvised them as to their rights and it seems they are now trying to extort some form of compensation for a non-existant problem without knowing all the facts or taking a balanced reasonable view.
                  The only section of the HA04 I find myself agreeing with is the bit about tenants' duties in an HMO -
                  Every occupier of the HMO must conduct himself in a way that will not hinder or frustrate the manager in the performance of his duties.

                  How many CAB/Shelter reps/tenants have ever quoted that one?!

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Here in this part of Spain it tends to be the Spanish whose English turns out not be so good when it comes to sorting out problems as it is when they sell! If I turn up with someone who has a problem faces tend to fall when it becomes obvious that I know how to say more than is needed to order a glass of beer.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Cinco helados, por favor.
                      'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by sherifffatman View Post
                        ................
                        The only section of the HA04 I find myself agreeing with is the bit about tenants' duties in an HMO -
                        Every occupier of the HMO must conduct himself in a way that will not hinder or frustrate the manager in the performance of his duties.
                        ...........
                        Sheriff: Perhaps not HA2004, rather
                        The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006
                        Going back to the original point I had a Portuguese tenant who understood/spoke fine-well English when it suited him and not at all when it didn't..

                        Wonder how the original speakers here (welsh, gaelic.. ) felt when the English started insisting on using English...
                        I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by theartfullodger View Post
                          Sheriff: Perhaps not HA2004, rather


                          Going back to the original point I had a Portuguese tenant who understood/spoke fine-well English when it suited him and not at all when it didn't..

                          Wonder how the original speakers here (welsh, gaelic.. ) felt when the English started insisting on using English...
                          fair enough and well spotted re the Acts - though one wouldn't exist without the other
                          been sending myself into a legal nonsensicle spin about these tenants - long and kafka-esque story...
                          Tho i'm sure the Celts/Brigantes would've killed for modern Tenant rights

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by theartfullodger View Post
                            Wonder how the original speakers here (welsh, gaelic.. ) felt when the English started insisting on using English...
                            Just like the English felt when the Willy the Conker invaded and made French the official language!
                            'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Paul_f View Post
                              I'm not asking for a solution as I don't want to go into detail, but I'm interested if this is an isolated case or is it more prevalent?
                              I also have a house of Poles in fact, so I can understand where you're coming from.

                              I have a very good relationship with mine but it certainly takes some time and effort to ensure we fully understand each other. We've found it best to communicate either face-to-face or by email - ie talking on the phone is hardest. Certainly when emailing I take a lot of care with my language, writing things in as simple English as I can, avoiding any idiomatic language, and carefully reading it through to check for any potential ambiguities.

                              I must admit I was a bit reticent about taking them on originally, especially due to the potential problems with language, but I've never regretted it; they've been excellent tenants.

                              Comment

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