Sunday, 22 May 2011

Tagalog to English: Lost in translation

Cross cultural and cross linguistic communication, as my Fiancée and I are both from very different cultural backgrounds and have different “first languages” then these are an ongoing and likely permanent aspect of our relationship.

 There has been quite a steep learning curve and a few missteps in our interactions due to these differences.  What one of us might see as commonplace the other sees as strange, an innocuous word or phrase for one can cause confusion or even upset for the other.
My fiancée has pretty good level of English, I on the other hand have an abysmal grasp on Tagalog and absolutely no idea when it comes to Visayan.  This meant that initially we relied heavily (read as exclusively) on her English .
No doubt some things did and still do get lost in translation, but with a genuine desire to know each other our ability to communicate effectively grown. Equally important is our ability to know when we are not communicating or are miscommunicating (sic?).
But rather than being detrimental to our relationship, as we’ve grown to be more conscious of the situation it’s lead to us making sure that we are each really listening to what the other is saying and that we are ourselves being understood. 
I’ve been in plenty of conversations (and relationships) where each party was already thinking about the next thing they were going to say before the other person had finished speaking.
In this relationship we can both be certain that when we speak the other person is listening intently.     
As a bonus it’s also the source of some fun and laughter ….especially when I start busting out my mangled Tagalog phrases….
So my advice (as if you need it);
1)      Really listen and don’t be afraid to say if you don’t understand. 
2)      Be conscious of your choice of words, meaning is easily lost in translation.
3)      Try to pick up some of the basics of your partners primary language as well as understanding social mores.
4)      Learn to enjoy the differences, they’re here to stay
5)      And for a laugh try using Google Translate….the results can be hilarious
Next…General randomness
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Basic Tagalog for Foreigners and Non-Tagalogs (Tuttle Language Library)

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