Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Language Barrier

This evening, I went to visit my friend Becky, who's been sick all week.  In case you wondered, she confirmed that it sucks to be sick in a foreign country. 

I went ahead and rode in a taxi (vs. taking the bus) on the way over, and the driver was so chatty!  First, I said the usual "anyang haseo" and then told him the jist of where I'd like to go, Songmu dong, then I just showed him the Hangul that said where I wanted to go, cause I didn't even try to pronounce 병원 (it's something like "byung wun," I think) and it's pretty obvious that if I'm confused, they're confused, so it's very handy to have the Hangul written to show the driver. 

So he starts chatting to me about this and that, and mostly I have no idea what he's saying, but then he says "Canadian?" 

No.  For goodness sake, my flag is not Chilean and I am not Canadian.  (Though I suppose it's hard to tell, on both counts.) 

"No," I smiled, "Meguk." No, I'm an American.  "From Texas," of course I added.

Then he started talking again, very quickly, in Korean.  I'd just shrug and smile, then I started to hear lots of food names: "Bipimbap?  Bulgogi?  Kimchi jigae?"  So I nodded and told him "nae, yes I like that, nae, yes I like the food"

He kept right on talking and I would shrug, then I started to say "ol mai yo" to his responses, telling him what I THOUGHT was "I don't know," and adding "I don't speak Korean yet!" to my feeble attempts at (botching) the language.

So, I get to Becky and I'm telling her about my little ride over and she starts CRACKING up at me, which sounded funnier than normal cracking up cause she has laryngitis (that's not the funny part) and can't speak, so her laugh was muffled but her face was hilarious!  (It was like watching someone laugh really hard on mute!)

She goes, "you know that that means 'how much does it cost,' right?" and kept on laughing at me!


"I don't know" is "mul lay yo"!!!! 

"Ol mai yo" and "mul lay yo" sound SO SIMILAR to me!!!  My crazy brain got them all confused (again!) and that poor taxi driver got to hear me say " how much does it cost?" over and over while he asked me questions about food and who-knows-what-else! 


Becky, meanwhile, is still cracking up, rolling around laughing at me while I hold my head in my hands like an idiot and laugh at myself, cause, really, what can you do? 

In between laughing fits, she made sure I'd be blogging about this later, so that all of you can enjoy her fun.  So, you're welcome, Becky, and you know who to thank, the rest of you.

Laugh it up, y'all, laugh it up.


Ok, I can't not tell this part too... I took another taxi home cause I honestly don't know where the bus stop is that I want to use and I didn't feel like walking around in the dark to find one...

I hopped in a cab and told the driver "Pungam jigae, Oomi gwangjang, ga juseyo" --> which is actually what I've been telling drivers all WEEK.  (Pungnam is my neighborhood, or 'dong,' and Oomi gwangjang or Oomi aparta is a big apartment tower, the 'landmark' near my apartment to tell cabbies.  Ga juseyo basically means "go there please")

He looked really confused, so I repeated, "Pungam dong?  Pungam jigae, Oomi gwangjang?"

I start digging in my wallet for my little laminated card with my phrase on it in Hangul, and he started driving.  Then he points and indicates that he wants me to confirm that he's going the right way, and I show him my card and he is all set, and we're on our happy little way.

Then I look at my card.

Pungnam jiguJIGU.  Not jigae!  You know what jigae is?  It's soup.  SOUP!  I've been telling cab drivers all weekend to take me to Pungam SOUP, ga juseyo.  What in the world?!?  Ugh, I'm an idiot! 

I really can't wait til I'm better at this language! At least I will never going to forget that "jigu" means "district" and "jigae" means "soup," now!

At least until the next time I get in a cab.  :-/

1 comment:

  1. Meanwhile, I am still laughing! Like full out, squeaking just stopped. ahahahahahahaha! But only because I can totally relate - I had many of those instances in Egypt....oh man. #languagebarriers :P