Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Linguistic Adventures II

I just had the most painful conversation.  This post should enlighten you some of the frustrating components of working here.


Because giving you a post full of misspelled Nepali words would not only be pointless but relatively boring, I will attempt to give you the conversation that I attempted to have in Nepali, in English.  I do hate to pick on Bhoj Raj, but as he is the self-appointed Nepali-teacher for Rob, it invariably results that he is the one involved in these kinds of conversations.


Rob: Can you give this CD Nhukesh?

Bhoj Raj:No, you mean "Pleeeese give this CD to Nhukesh"

R: S&(* I forgot the "to", Can you give this CD to Nhukesh?

B: No, you mean "Pleeeeese give this CD to Nhukesh".

R: Hang on, wait, what does "pleeeese" mean?  I've never heard that before.  For second person I should say "pleeeeese give"?

B: Yes.

R: So, first person, "I give....", Second person "pleeeese give....", third person "he give...."

B: yes

R: That doesn't make sense.  Do these all have the same meaning?  Usually second person is the same as third.  I'm asking a question, it sounds like your way is telling me to do something

b: yes.

r: yes, what?

b: yes.

r: [deep breath] is "can you give this to Nhukesh" correct?

b: n-... yes

r: so what does "pleeeese" mean then?

b: is polite.

r: OH!  you mean "PLEASE!" you just spell it and say it in a completely different way to how I was taught.  That is why I was confused.  So "Can you give this CD to Nhukesh" is correct, just not very polite?

b: yes, i mean no.

r: not correct?

b: yes.

r: rajuji?

raju: yeah?

r: Can you give this CD to Nhukesh?

raju: OK [head wobble which is the local equivalent to a nod]

r: bhojraj, raju understands what I am saying.

b: yes, you said it correctly.

r: [loud sigh] so we just had a 20 minute conversation because I forgot "to" in my first sentence? and you were teaching me to say something different to what I wanted?


People make that mistake in English all the time, “You give Nhukesh” – you just shrug and go and give the stupid thing to Nhukesh don’t you?  Katherine suggested that Nepalis get “in-country immunity” (which itself is a rather amusing concept) from these kind of mistakes, but the rule is all foreigners must be corrected.


The worst part of all of this is that the CD is still on my desk.



Aside: looking back on that - it lost something in translation*, and I sound like an annoying little poo head. 


*the irony is not lost on me


  1. It sounds like they were just giving you a hard time!

    Thanks for all your impressive screenplay ideas on my blog.

  2. The CD is still on your desk ? So after all the fuss over whether you were correct, incorrect, polite, or just plain rude - they still havent dne what you asked....

  3. Poor Nhukesh, he's never going to get his CD!

  4. i went and gave it to him - the only reason i was asking was because BJ was sitting next to him.