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Spinach head + pissing milk

A sometimes amusing thing about having a smattering of more than one language is how what you hear pops something completely different into your head courtesy of another language!

It can result in some rather odd brain combinations…

The 1st time I was asked if I wanted ‘susu’ in my coffee in Indonesia… had a quite gross image of a kid pissing into my sacred morning ritual with a heavily caffeinated brew!

Cus ‘susu‘ in my Hindi-colonised brain now means… well… taking an erm…. leak.

Whereas in Bahasa it means milk!

Last trip to Jakarta during my stay-cation massage, I thought the girl asked if I wanted a palak massage too.

Now palak to me means spinach…. So I instantly had bizarre cartoon images of spinach dancing in my head!

Turns out she was actually saying kepala i.e. head but obvious my ear was wired to food!

I wonder if others have this strange experience of hearing (or mis-hearing) one thing which bears zero relationship to what is ACTUALLY being said?

BTW… if you haven’t yet checked out Simone (Lady of the Cakes) new blog on Multilingual by Choice yet, do….

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“How come you don’t have an accent in Hindi?”

Just as my English has a “chameleon” quality (see “Can you drop the Indian accent?”), I’m often asked “How come you don’t have an accent in Hindi?”

I've got Hindi, what about you? (Photo: www.tattoodonkey.com)

I’ve got Hindi, what about you? (Photo: http://www.tattoodonkey.com)

Usually I explain that I have lived in India for more than a decade, studied Hindi in Delhi for a year augmented mid-way by a very helpful 6-week stint at the Landour Language School (near Mussourie).

What follows is generally “Aaah! That explains it!” type response. Because the ‘real’ Hindi is naturally from North India!

Yet I’m aware that my vocabulary has shifted between what is typically heard in Delhi to ‘Mumbaya’ words. And has deteriorated abysmally as my universe in Bombay is almost exclusively English.

When I lived in Delhi (1995-96, 2003-05) there were multiple daily opportunities to speak Hindi or at least ‘Hinglish‘ – in which one switches effortlessly between English, Hindi, blending words from each language. Today, I’m honest enough to know that when folks complement my Hindi, they are being terribly kind – even I can hear how badly I mess up!

However I have a few perspectives on this… and wonder if anyone else agrees? (more…)

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