Wednesday, April 05, 2006

How Do We Speak English?

Since recovering our native tongue in New Zealand, we've had a few moments of hilarity and inarticulateness. We wanted to try and share these with all of you, but they may get lost in translation. Oh well -- here goes!

"You have big size?" Andy asked the clerk in the wool sweater store...
who looked at him quizzically. I started laughing, especially because he'd said "beegh size" without the short 'i' vowel sound like they do in all of SE Asia, and he quickly recovered to ask her if they carried a selection of sizes beyond medium.

"Same, same!" I answered perkily to the waitress...
who looked at me with puzzlement. She'd asked what I'd be having for lunch and I wanted the same thing as Andy. In SE Asia, "same, same" is a huge phrase and used by everyone in description and affirmation. Without thinking, I just chirped "same, same" and sounded like a weird, un-English-speaking animal.

"This one--how much?" asked Andy, pointing to a rafting trip brochure and talking to a Canadian...
who started laughing at him immediately, as she'd traveled through Vietnam before NZ and knew he was speaking abbreviated English.

"No have? Have!?" I asked the seafood seller, while Andy pointed to the menu photo of Green Lipped Mussels...
who just stared back us, looking surprised. Almost like he'd expected that with our white-skinned looks like we'd speak normal English. We wondered if they had the fresh local delicacy of mussels available and went automatically into our Asian questioning mode.

"How many are you?" I asked politely to a British family at a sheep show...
the Mum of the group looked uncomfortably baffled and the father looked at me politely but blankly. Quickly recovering once I processed the silence, I asked, "How many of you are in your family and traveling together?" as they had a campervan and filled a row of seats. In India and SE Asia, that's how you ask 'how big is your group? how many of you are there?, etc' without sounding like a weirdo.

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