I’m dog sitting for a friend for two weeks and I’m staying in her apartment. This morning, I took Maybelle out for a walk and a young guy came up and sheepishly introduced himself.
“I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met,” he says, extending his hand for a handshake.
Handshakes aren’t too common in Thailand – most of the time greetings are a “wai,” you put your hands flat together like you’re praying and say “Sawat-dii-kah” if you’re a girl and “Sawat-dii-khrap” if you’re a guy.
“We’ve cleared this land if you want to park here,” the guy said, smiling.
“Your English is very good!” I tell him.
The guy’s parents came out and I shook hands with them too. They don’t speak English.
“She’s beautiful, son,” the father says to him in Thai.
He blushes but doesn’t think that I can speak Thai so he continues talking to me in English, explaining he’s a second-year education major and wants to be a teacher like his parents.
They ask about how long I’ve been here.
I tell them in Thai that I don’t live here at this house, but am just taking care of a friend’s dog.
The guy blushes crimson. “Oh, you speak Thai.” He flashes a quick look at his dad and laughs nervously.
Caught in translation.
It’s fun being able to pick up on conversations in Thai, Chinese and English (duh).
Eavesdropping becomes a sport. Epfang is the word in Thai.
It’s funny listening in when people are talking about you and they don’t think you can understand – like today’s conversation. It’s fun getting glimpses into other people’s lives when they’re being honest and direct. It’s a great way to learn about culture.
I definitely don’t understand everything that’s said – only bits and pieces. Well, of course I understand English. There are so many times I miss what a Thai or Chinese friend is saying because my language isn’t up to par. I shudder to think of what was lost in translation – like the time I was nodding and smiling when a friend was telling me about going through a rough patch. I missed some words ….
I tend to be lazy about studying. Is it too late for New Years’ Resolutions?
It’s not always fun be able to understand conversations in another language. Many times I hear comments on my weight, “Look at her, she’s so fat.”
It’s also not fun eavesdropping in on some English conversations here. There are a lot of nasty men who make their way here from all sorts of countries looking for prostitutes. I’ve wanted to slap some of the men who’ve made lewd remarks to the women and the massage parlor where I teach English.
But, language is a beautiful thing. It communicates truth, hope and joy. It paints pictures a picture of our dreams and expresses experiences.
Caught or lost in translation – that’s where I live.