Filed under: Culture, Expat life, People | Tags: Bangkok, Bible, bottled water, culture difference, drink, English, English language, food, food court, juice, language, Lost in Translation, mineral water, Minute Maid, orange, orange juice, Sprite, stupid, Thai, Thai language, Thai people, Tower of Babel, translation, water
I’m learning Thai, but my abilities remain limited, so I’d never criticise a Thai person’s attempts at English.
I was at the drinks stand of a Bangkok food court. The vendor stood in front of a double glass door fridge. I appraised his wares, and the lingual fun began.
The conversation was a mix of my limited Thai and his limited English, but for simplicity’s sake I have transcribed it in English only. But even allowing for language differences, there’s no way such a simple transaction should have been anywhere near as protracted. Sprite is Sprite, whether in English or Thai, written or spoken.
Me: Sprite, please.
Him: Bottled water?
Me: No, Sprite, please.
(He reaches for a bottle of Minute Maid orange juice.)
Me: No, Sprite.
Him: No have.
Me: Yes, you have (pointing at the Sprite in the fridge).
(He reaches for the orange juice again.)
Me: No, down.
(He reaches two shelves down, passes the Sprite, and goes for the bottled water again.)
Me: No, up.
(He reaches two shelves up and goes for the orange juice again.)
(He looks at me as if I’m stupid.)
Me: Sprite. Suh-prite? Spuh-rite?
(He continues to just look at me.)
Me: There! (Pointing again).
(He reluctantly opens the fridge again and we begin to repeat the up-down routine.)
Me: No, up. No, down. Right. Right. No, go right! Yes! That one!
Him: (Looking at me like I’m really stupid) Oh, you want Sprite.
(Note: As Thai for “bottled water” is “nam plao” and “orange juice” is “nam som”, there’s no possibly way he could have confused either with “Sprite”, whether in sound or appearance!)