Language is the biggest problem here

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

OSAKA - I have improved my sign language since arriving in Japan for the World Athletics Championships last week.

This is the only way for me to communicate with the Japanese, not that they are deaf but because they can't understand English.

It is really worrisome that the Japanese working at the hotels can't speak English and even worse that those at Nagai Stadium can't communicate in the language.

This has proved to be difficult for foreigners to get assistance from the people who are working at the stadium during the event.

I think the IAAF, the athletics world controlling body, should ensure that future hosting countries of international events rope in people who can speak a language that will benefit foreigners.

I went to the stadium on Saturday to collect my press accreditation and asked a security guy to give me directions to the accreditation room. He took me to where athletes were warming up.

He left me there and one of his colleagues asked me to leave the area because I didn't have "press in the neck" - accreditation card, I supposed.

But he could not show me where to receive the "press in the neck".

I also encountered serious problems on my first day at the Hotel Granvia when I misplaced my wallet shortly after I had checked in.

I was raving mad, not because of the few dollars in the wallet, but about more important things in it.

I approached the lady at reception and explained my predicament. She laughed as if I was telling some silly joke.

I was relieved when she said something like "no problem is there" and she called her colleague to take me "there".

The colleague took me to the dining room and I was offered a menu.

But my sign language let me down on Sunday when I tried to get a slip for Y1000 from the driver of a metered taxi.

I tried all the tricks in the book but the elderly driver could not understand what I was saying and instead offered me a box of matches.