Tag: language

Lost in Translation

A very good evening, Beloved Believers! Tonight, I wish to talk about the difficulties of understanding others. Of course, I don’t mean ‘understanding’ in the sense of ‘empathising with’ – as I am the LSG, empathy is something I leave to ordinary mortals, who need to ‘feel your pain’ or ‘walk in your shoes’ (not for me, unless they’re Christian Louboutin’s, daaahlings … And NEVER Crocs!). No, this is about understanding people talking to you, even though you haven’t left these shores for foreign climes.
I have come to terms with understanding Scottish accents – as long as I can catch every third word, I’m fine – I make up the rest. Northern Irish is similar – ‘hyevva’, as pronounced by an NI BBC reporter is, in fact, ‘however’, so I can work from that. North Welsh still defeats me at times, especially since they have different words for the same things – for example, ‘girl’ in North Welsh is ‘hogan’ (both singular and plural), but ‘merch’ (merched, plural) in the South; ‘boy’ is ‘hogyn’ (both singular and plural) or ‘bachgen’ (bechgyn, plural). ‘Now’ is ‘nawr’ (South) and ‘rwan’ (North). How does that work, other than backwards??
Hyevva, the one that defeats me is the Black Country – Debbie, Rob, is there a phrase book that you haven’t told me about? The (male) siblings and I visited the Black Country Living Museum the other day and were flummoxed right from the start, although, agreeably, the initial lack of understanding led to us all being admitted at ‘Concessions’ price (even though only one of us qualified) simply because older sibling didn’t understand what he was being asked and just smiled and said ‘Yes’, while younger sibling and I stood behind him looking old.
We moved on to the main entrance where we were greeted by a gentleman – dressed as a 19th-century pit supervisor (I’m using my imagination here) – who asked us a question which none of us understood, so we said, ‘Pardon?’ and he repeated the question. The LSG, making the most of her linguistic abilities, understood the word ‘rent’, replied ‘Yes’, smiled, showed our tickets and we were allowed in. Thereafter, we made sure we engaged in no further conversation, even avoiding the 19th-century pub in case we were expected to converse and ended up with a pint of gin! (Actually, now I come to think of it …)
The visit was extremely enjoyable, and I would recommend it to all and sundry, but just don’t expect to hold lengthy conversations with anyone (unless they’re ‘proper’ foreign!).

Today’s experience was somewhat different. I decided to go along to the city library, which has moved from the beautiful, old Central Library building to the refurbished Council House – beautiful on the outside, rather clashingly modern on the inside – to borrow a book I didn’t want to buy on Kindle (i.e. too expensive!). The conversation went like this:
Helper: Hello, can I help you?
Me: Yes, it’s my first visit here. Where will I find books by Victoria Hislop?
H: ‘Hislop’. Does that begin with an ‘E’?
Stunned silence on my part.
Me: No, ‘aitch’.
H: Ah, ‘haitch’.
I maintained a dignified silence. The book (The Return) wasn’t in stock. I will have to go through this again next week…

I am dedicating this to CJ Jones, who died suddenly today – she was one of the LSG’s most dedicated supporters and she would have loved this, especially the Welsh bits! Sleep well, CJ.

Languages are fun – Quiz!

Dark Continent

Dark Continent

Now that I have returned from the Dark Continent, I felt I needed to share with you some of the things I have learned, one of which is that it is very easy to get by in Swahili with just a few words, BUT you need to make sure that you learn those words properly. The following examples – all taken from real life – will show you exactly how easy it is to make mistakes, especially when nervous and trying to say the right thing:

Role Play 1:
The Swahili for ‘Welcome’ is ‘Karibu’ or ‘Karibuni’.
Now imagine you are the retiring Head of an international school in, let’s say, Tanzania and you are attending your own retirement party in the school hall. How do you greet the assembled staff?
a) Karibu
b) Karibuni
c) Calamari
If you answered c), you have just called the staff a load of squid.

Role Play 2:
The Swahili for ‘Hello’ is ‘Mambo’ or ‘Jambo’.
Now imagine that you are a teacher walking out of the school gates, which are opened for you by a guard who is a local. How do you greet the guard?
a) Mambo
b) Jambo
c) Sambo
If you answered c), you have just put race relations back about 50 years! (If you answered a AND b, then you are not taking this seriously.)



Role Play 3:
You are on safari and your guide points out a large black and white bird. Trying to show off, you proudly announce that you know what it is. What do you say?
a) Marabou
b) Caribou
c) Karibu
The only correct answer is a), a marabou being a large stork. If you answered b), you are on the wrong continent, since caribou is the North American name for reindeer, and if you answered c), you clearly did not pay any attention to the information given in Role Play 1.

Role Play 4:
The Swahili for ‘Hello’ is ‘Habari’.
Now imagine that you wish to greet someone in the street. What do you say?
a) Habari
b) Haribo
The only correct answer is a). If you said b), then you have seen too many TV adverts.

Two of these were – gulp! – mistakes made by the LSG herself, proving that I, too, have some human frailties!

And there you are – ready for your first hesitant steps in Swahili, which will be of great use in Derby, Ponty, Devon, Non-Iron and many other places where I have FB friends. Hakuna matata!