Thursday, May 10, 2007

How to “Top Up”

I had a yummy feast at my former student’s home the other day. I taught him at BC and his wife and kids at home. We had rice, homemade bread (baked in their tandoori oven on the balcony) kebab, chicken, salad and some spicy pickled veggies. While I sipped my tea during the post feast chat, he said that understanding the English of Malaysians can be quite frustrating sometimes.

He heard them say

They meant
“semester three”

He heard them say
“Me dirty and my husband dirty to.”

They meant

“I’m 30 and my husband’s 32.”

Apparently they have trouble understanding his Iraqi brand of English.

After running out of prepaid credit on his mobile phone, he approached the counter and requested – “credit card Digi” (Digi is the brand name of the telecommunications company)After much back and forth he found another Malaysian to translate for him.

Frustrated, he asked “what SHOULD I have asked for?”

The clerk answered, “digi 10”

Of course, this clerks spends day after day having people walk up to her asking for the same thing over and over; cards to reload credit on their mobiles. Who knows why she couldn’t figure out what he meant. Which word threw her off? Was it CREDIT? Was it CARD?... or was it DIGI?!!!!!!!!

Honestly, I think that sometimes people get so nervous at the sight of an expatriate that they prevent themselves from any possibility of communicating with that person. I’ve ordered at a restaurant in Bahasa Malaysia and gotten giggles and confusion, then had my Malaysian friend repeat the same thing in very much the same accent and be understood.
Part of communicating is allowing yourself to relax and simply listen with some degree of confidence. Without these two factors, you don’t stand a chance.

p.s. the name of this post is “How to TOP UP” . This is a term I learned the hard way, my second month here in Malaysia. I’ve been here so long that I can’t even remember how to say it in American English!

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