Friday, May 28, 2010

Lost in Translation

Yesterday was definitely one of the funniest moments I've had in Houston. I had never thought that if one tries to put Indonesians and Chinese in a Chinese restaurant, there's a slight possibility that everything would just get really complicated. I mean REALLY.

So the other night my husband and I had a dinner appointment with another couple. These man and wife were natives of the China Republic and had been living in Houston since 2007. The husband, Wei Gua worked with my husband in BP and they got along pretty good so the dinner was absolutely a great idea.

My husband and I were (as usual) fashionably late. We had a 7 PM appointment and got to the restaurant about 20 minutes later. Yes, we are really impolite that way. When we were still on our way to Sinh Sinh, the restaurant, my husband texted to check if they had already arrived. Of course they had. They told us to take our time. They had already ordered some appetizers.

The moment we arrived at Sinh Sinh with our faces all panicked because we were terribly late, we immediately looked around for them. Strangely enough, they were nowhere to be found. So my husband called Wei Gua and he said that he was sitting on the left side of the entrance. We looked to the left and surely enough, they still weren't there. "I don't think we're at the same restaurant. You told him that we are meeting them at Sinh Sinh right?" I asked my husband. He then asked his friend, "Where are you, man? I'm at Sinh Sinh and you're not here." Funny, Wei Gua said that he was also at Sinh Sinh. "There's a Chase bank in front of the restaurant I am in," said Wei Gua. We could see the bank on the far left from where we were standing, so for sure Wei Gua and his wife were not at Sinh Sinh.

"Do you want us to go to you or are you coming to us? What's the name of your restaurant?" asked my husband. Wei Gua still said Sinh Sinh. OK, so that was not helping at all. "I really can't catch your restaurant's name. OK, so you're coming to us? What intersections are your restaurant's in?" my husband then tried to give the couple the direction to our Sinh Sinh and the next 20 minutes were filled with him trying to give directions. It should've taken them only 3 minutes to get to us, but I suppose constant misinterpretation of what the other was saying was responsible for the rest 17 minutes. My husband then gave up and had a "brilliant" idea to asked one of the waiters to give Wei Gua the direction in their native language. Ten minutes later they arrived.

As Wei Gua and his wife explained why they got the wrong restaurant, I was laughing so hard realizing that it was not all their fault. It was more our fault actually. It turned out that in Mandarin, Sinh Sinh is not even pronounced sin-sin as my husband and I and the rest of the world (except China) would pronounce it. What was pronounced sin-sin was actually Tan Tan, the restaurant they were mistakenly came to. So there, I experienced first hand how even English speaking people could just got tangled in the web of misinterpretation because there were still accents and limited knowledge of the other's native languages.

"You know what the funniest part is, Aris?" asked Wei Gua. Indeed, there was still something funnier. Wei Gua continued, "That waiter that you asked to give directions to me was actually speaking Cantonese. A whole other different language from the Mandarin that I speak. So it was not actually helping because everything he said was total gibberish to my ears eventhough he was almost screaming to make sure that I understood and telling me to speak louder also. So we were screaming at each other in totally different languages." Oh Lord, that was definitely a night I will never forget.

When the dinner was over we promised to do it again some other time. Although next time we will be smart enough to not choose a Chinese restaurant. Or, if we ever want to eat Chinese with them again, we will make sure that the name of the restaurant will be written, letter by letter.

No comments:

Post a Comment