While recently checking in to an up-market business hotel, in Orange County, CA, the desk clerk was courteous and efficient. However when I presented my credit card to her she asked, “CanIseesomeformofpictureID?” This was said rapidly, with the words run together.
Of course I understood what she meant. However, behind me in the check-in queue was a couple speaking Italian. I wondered if they would understand this request, as it was posed to me.
It is difficult for us to simplify and slow our American English when talking with people whose second or third language is English. They may speak English quite well, but they may have learned it in Singapore or at Oxford, and our American vernacular may not translate at all well.
It would have been more helpful if the hotel employee would have asked to see a driver’s license or passport, with the credit card. However, since some people may not possess a driver’s license or passport, it presents a dilemma. Many countries have driver’s licenses issued for life and the photos issued at age 18 or 20 no longer bear any resemblance to the license holder today.
One of the first points of contacts for a hotel visitor or guest, is the front desk clerk. They may have been greeted briefly by the doorman, but the first conversation a hotel guest would have most likely would be the clerk at check-in.
Would a better way to phrase the request have been, “Sir (or ma’m), do you have any identification with your photograph?” The request would be spoken clearly, distinctly and without running the words together. The word identification would not be abbreviated, so as to avoid confusing the non-native English speaker with “ID”.
It behooves hotel staff and indeed all of us to extend ourselves to international visitors or colleagues to help them to feel as comfortable as possible, starting with the initial contact and a form of English sans abbreviations, vernacular phrases and American expressions.
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