Tuesday, August 08, 2006

New Stove, New %^&* (Part 2)

We’ve all heard the stories. A foreign speaker’s mispronunciation of a word leading to an awkward or funny situation. I often think back to my Swedish cousin Simon refusing to accept that his name while in America was “Simon” and not the Swedish version, which values “e” much more than “i” or “o”. If the unwitting foreign speaker is lucky the mishap will come off as charming, making for a fun story for the native speakers to laugh about later with their friends. It’s all part of the cultural exchange and often times breaks the cultural barriers that can often seem so insurmountable. The pronunciation of “ice cream” in Armenian is but a hairs breath away from a word for a common prophylactic, understandably leading to some interesting situations during the first few weeks of our service, as the prevalence of inexpensive and ever-so-tasty ice cream mixed with the conservative social sensitivities of an established and staunchly monogamous nation like Armenia. These sorts of things were explained to me by my current language teacher as a way to gain a common ground of humanity and share in the international appreciation for small misunderstandings. At the time I truly understood and agreed.

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