[Almost] Lost In Translation

It seems like we frequently have interactions with people where we say something, the person nods their head in understanding, only to walk away and find them do exactly the opposite of what we had just discussed. But we have come to realize that communicating between languages is difficult, even in a country where English is the trade language. Many people intend to show respect to the “mzungu” (white person) by expressing understanding, though we may have totally missed the mark in making ourselves clear. And I’m sure it goes the other way as well. (How many times have I said, “uh-huh,” very politely and then been asked, “You didn’t understand, did you?”?)

Texting and cell phones add to the dilemma. Sometimes, we have to get very clever and creative in deciphering texts. Here’s an example of a text we got yesterday regarding directions for us:

“From manda hill caltex tane to the left side whewe the are renoveting the load came stright tell mewhen you reach caltex”

Here’s the interpretation:

“From Manda Hill, [at the] Caltex turn to the left side where they are renovating the road. Come straight. Tell me when you reach Caltex.”

Some of the ability in being able to read these texts in the spirit in which they were written only comes with months of interacting with people and gaining an ear for their accent, which often comes out in how they write.

Happy 6-months to us! We passed the test of interpreting the text! (As evidenced by making it to our destination). 🙂

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