I think there’s at least one thing nearly all people in intercultural relationships have in common. That is the magnificent, yet, pain-staking problem of language differences.
When I am with Rabindra and his friends, they generally are happy to speak English with me but then revert to speaking Nepalese between each other.
And of course, if we’re at a gathering and the drinks start flowing, they start to speak at a hundred miles an hour in their native tongue and forget that little old me can’t understand a thing.
Most of the time it doesn’t bother me but sometimes I get really overwhelmed and feel totally excluded.
It’s like standing in the middle of a street with people screaming at each other, hand gestures flying in the air, eyes as stark and alive as ever, but you can’t tell if they are talking about goats or their wives.
At social occasions where I am meeting new people I feel utterly left out because as Rabindra explains, even though many of his friends would love to talk to me, they are shy and not confident in their own ability to speak to a fluent English speaker and therefore think they will embarrass themselves.
So I’ve started to learn the language. Progress is slow but I am determined!!
Rabindra is such a great teacher. NOT. Last week I asked him how to say “I feel happy”. He mumbled the sentence and I repeated it, only to find out I was actually saying “My ass is hurting.”
Here’s a few funny stories we’ve had:
–For about two months he called me “sweaty” instead of “sweety”. Yes that went down really well especially when he was trying to impress me! I started wearing heaps more perfume and deodrant during this time. I was paranoid.
–For a few months at the start of our relationship I was interpreting his ‘yes’ and ‘no’ incorrectly. Nepalese people have this style of nodding their head to the side when they are agreeing or saying yes to something. I, of course, did not know this so every time I asked him a question like “would you like me to make you some breakfast?” he would nod his head to the side, so of course I don’t make him breakfast and confusion abounds.
–Recently a Nepalese friend asked me if I had a piece of furniture she could use. I agreed, thinking she was borrowing it and would then return it. After Rabindra finished talking with her, he explained to me that we had got our wires crossed and she thought I was actually giving her the furniture!! Uh-oh. Anyway I am too embarrassed to ask for it back so I just went and bought a new one!
–He jokingly calls me alot of the rude words in Nepali and I have no idea what he is calling me. Sometime he will just rattle off a sentence and I can feel my left eyebrow rising wondering what the hell he is on about now. I know many of the naughty Nepali words and I have taught him plenty of Australian slang.
–I still get a laugh out of him every time I ask him to say “how are you going mate?”. I don’t think he will ever master that one.
Looking back, some of it is really quite hilarious and I think when we are old, we will still laugh about the problems we had understanding each other when we first met!
Even now we still get confused about certain things and I think it will always be that way.
If you have any funny language stories, please share them here!