Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Chaos in the Translation...

There are times when living in a foreign country can lead to a sense of panic. Everywhere you go there are signs you don't understand. Every whispered conversation you hear could potentially be about you, and you'd be none the wiser. You can walk around in a state of blissful euphoria that you can't really be blamed for anything because, essentially, you can honestly say you didn't know.
But every now and then, there are moments when not knowing can cause a pretty serious problem. Or at least it's a possibility. So five minutes ago when a voice came over the loudspeaker piped up from hypernova (the supermarket downstairs from Winfield) repeating some calm and yet urgent message over and over in both Czech and German, I couldn't help but be curious. Was the building ablaze? Had noxious chemicals been released through the heating vents? Were man eating squirrels taking over the nut aisle? So many questions I was helpless to answer.
Oh to be blessed with multilingual abilities! Jarmila, my boss, was kind enough to go down stairs and ask what had happened. Apparently an air conditioner repairman (why they were repairing the air con on a cold rainy day like today I have absolutely no idea) had merely touched something he shouldn't have.
But it really can be disconcerting. Those moments when your train mysteriously stops in the middle of nowhere, or simply never arrives at the station to begin with; when clerks begin trying to explain something to you about a product you're trying to purchase and suddenly decide you don't get to have it after all, or that your money is too dirty to pay for it; when your french fries arrive all crunchy and overcooked and there's no way to return them or ask for your money back; when you read a screen saver in a coffee shop and it talks about "consummation" being a prerequisite for internet use and you're pretty sure they aren't running a Las Vegas wedding chapel in the back room. There really can be some chaos mixed in there.
After ten minutes they finally got the alarm to shut down and classes resumed. So we didn't have to use the evacuation plans we'd been discussing in class earlier, and now all is well and I think I'm going to go down to hypernova to get some lunch.
Na shledanou. (feeling confused yet???)


The Fryar Family said...

This is SO INCREDIBLY True!!! I can add a few of my own... like being overcharged for an item.. but not knowing how to say that... MANY times... it's just easier to forget it and move on.

Most recent one... How do you ask for a Safety pin? I was in a drug store.. no clue what the word was... how do you describe a safety pin using only CHARADES?? That's FUN!! :)

We get SO EXCITED when we land in the US.. because we can ACTUALLY evesdrop on someone else's conversation! That's HUGE!! :)

Love ya bunches!
Beverly - for the Fryars!

lydtravels said...


Anonymous said...

That's really funny :) I often use the language analogy when explaining to parents why it's vital their child know how to read English properly. Now I have a real life story to incorporate. Thanks