February 13

World Radio Day


You don’t recognize the language coming from your radio speaker, but a frantic lilt in the woman’s voice seems intent on conveying an urgent message.

As with any foreign language, you try to find syllables that might share meanings with English.  You hear a word like “neech,” which makes you think of negative or bad, followed by a rhythmic progression that reminds you of counting.

The radio’s set to an all-music station, so the broadcast puzzles you at first.  You twist the dial to another of your pre-sets, expecting a morning dose of classic rock.

It’s the same voice on that station, too.  And on the third station.

You’re about to get angry, but the “neech” voice fades.  Instead of a drumbeat or power chords, another foreign voice repeats an urgent message…or, more likely, the same message in different syllables.  A man this time, and he seems fixated on the syllable “bit.”

Switching to pre-sets five and six, you hear the same man: bit!  bit!  bit!

That broadcast fades, but another foreign broadcast resumes — this time, the voice of a child.  The boy or girl sing-songs as if repeating a nursery rhyme, and you listen for references to a Grimm or Aesop animal.

Suddenly, you realize what is going on.  Today is designated as “World Radio Day,” and the different stations must be cooperating to convey a positive global message in multiple languages.  In 2015 the theme was Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment; 2016 celebrated Youth and Radio.

You hope a familiar language cycles around, so you can decipher this year’s theme.

As if in answer, the child’s voice fades, and a familiar accent resumes the broadcast.  The man speaks in Spanish, which you studied for a year in high school.  Not enough to comprehend full sentences, but you still remember the basics:  food items, days of the week, numbers.

And the tension in the man’s voice is enough to break through any language barrier.

The easiest, rhythmic part for you to translate proves you’d been correct earlier.  Some of the broadcast is counting, and the progression of numbers comes through clearly.  The one thing you hadn’t realized earlier is that the numbers are being spoken in reverse.

A countdown.

And that’s when you hear the theme of this year’s global broadcast:  Apocalipsis