Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What do you call someone who can speak only one language?

American.  A few months ago, I took an Introductory Tamil course... and I speak very imperfectly but quite entertainingly. 

I have told the maids:
- to eat the baby, rather than feed the baby. "Baby shapadah."
- that my father-in-law has an "evil" heart, instead of not so healthy (bad)
- that they should take a shower after they finish playing, instead of working (i learned work and play at the same time and used the wrong word at the wrong time)

One of the maids, who used to work in the Gulf (is it Persian or Arabian?) thinks she speaks English well.  She told me she used to work for "my people" at Arby's.  I was impressed.  "Really, Arby's - the Arby's?," I asked, incredulous.  Note:  this woman is of the Nair caste - so for her to be slinging roast beef sandwiches for a living adds to the delicious incredulity.  I try to imagine her sans sari with the polycotton Arby's uniform, hat, and drive-thru headgear. 

She repeated it again, but this time it sounded like "army." 

"Oh, Army! You worked for the US Army?", I tried to clarify - maybe she'd worked on some Halliburton contractor. 

"ARABI! ARABI!," she started saying louder and more forcefully.

My sister-in-law clarified - "Arabs; she used to work for Arab families."

This same maid keeps making me some green "juice," something between lime juice and a mint julep - more mint than julep.  Rather tasty, but when I drink it, I feel like I'm drinking some secret concoction meant only for Arabs (which is what she insists, only They drink it, like it's some kind of Priory of Scion secret.) 


Indie Mama said...

Oh poop - I'm American! = )

From the Midwest to India said...

I am amazed at how many languages people here speak. My driver alone knows 7 and he is only 21. It is crazy how some people can pick things up so quickly.

triliana said...

hahaha! eat the baby :)
My best mistake in any language was in Hindi ... I had mistaken the word for kite (patang) for the word for bed (palang) .. you can see how easy that is... but my teacher cracked up when I told her "look! the beds are flying!"