Friday, October 15, 2010

Of Languages and Misinterpretations

Sometimes I feel I am so blessed. I never find myself out of reasons to laugh out loud, even in the supposedly drab atmosphere of a workplace.
My colleague is a Tamilian. Born and brought up, fed and trained, loved, wrapped, unwrapped, given, taken - everything in Tamil.
Obviously, in a place like Pune, he ought to face difficulties. He is not very good at English (Grammatically). And Hindi toh Maashaallah!. It's just "manageable“in both the cases. Both, as in, in speaking English and understanding English. Hindi is totally out of question.

And our customers happen to be Germans. So that's an icing on the cake. Like mastering one language wasn't enough, we are expected to communicate in three languages, including German.

In order to learn Hindi, my neighbour learns one new word from me daily. He picks up one word that i have extensively used the previous day, asks the meaning and tries to use it in his day to day conversations. So far, his vocabulary consists of following words : Kya, Kitna, Kyu, Badhiya and Pagal.

Now, people who have always spoken Tamil have a tendency of pronouncing 'g' as in 'Nagesh' as 'h' as in 'Nahesh'. And they pronounce 'h' as in 'Mahesh' as 'g' as in 'Maghesh'. So, for the Tamil dude, Pagal was not Pa'g'al, but it was Paa'h'al.

One fine day we hired a contractor to do some petty work on a daily basis. This chap happened to be a pakka Puneri with very little knowledge of Shudh Hindi and amazing hands over Marathi. The contractor was supposed to deal with this Tamil guy. They happened to get into a very interesting conversation, which had us in splits.

Tamil dude : You have to solder it right here.
Contractor : Kidhar Ko?
Tamil Dude : You look the Diagram. Here, Here. Pin no. 4.
Contractor : 4 ko kela na.
Tamil Dude : Kela nahi. Aaj Apple.
Contractor : Aapal. Achha accha. Kar dete main.
Tamil dude : Badhiya!!
Contractor : Ok. (smiles heartily)

Then I asked my colleague whether everything was going on fine. He said yes and I asked him what did the contractor say. He said he didn't know. Then I intervened just to make sure that the soldering work was going on fine. I realised that there was miscommunication and i corrected it.

My colleague got mad and said in disgust, "Paaahal".
Contractor : Kay Paahu?
Tamil dude: You Paahal.
Contractor : Kay karu pahle?
Tamil dude to me: Am I correct?
Me : Yes. Politically.
Tamil dude : Badhiya.
Contractor: Sab badhiya. Aaj Shaam ko khatam kar dalega.

I laughed hysterically at the contractor’s statement. I wondered whether he actually meant "kaam khatam kar dalega, ya tamil dude ko".

The tryst with misinterpretations continued as I wondered what "Pegel" meant after our client from Germany pinged me and said "Pegel of Output".

I mumbled "pegel" as I thought whether I had heard this term ever, and while I re-read the pings, my neighbour who had already heard what I said, replied back ,
"Pe'h'el?"
I smiled and said, "Yes. He says 'Pegel of output'. What does it mean?"
He replied, "Pehel means Level, in German".
"Thanks", I said, my smile converting into a laugh.

From one Level - Pegel, to another.. This sure is a "Pe'h'el"...  ("Pehel" as in Hindi, which means "Start")