International Ministries

A Tricky Business

June 20, 2016 Journal
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Even though I have been speaking Thai for about 12 years, I still make mistakes sometimes. For example, I was giving a devotional at the New Life Center staff worship time the other day and was trying to make a point about how money is not something to love or hate. It's a tool, just like a hammer. We love God, we use things. When we mix up our "loves", we get into trouble. I thought it was a rather clear concept. But the staff gave me the strangest looks and I started to get that sinking feeling. "Yup, here we are again...just when I think I know what I'm doing...surely I've said something wrong... Lord, please let it not be some really bad swear word!"

When communicating in a second language, it's always advisable to approach things with a great deal of humility.

Fortunately, our staff are incredibly gracious people, always ready to jump in and help me save face.  So one of them piped up and said, "Hammer! ...She's trying to say hammer!" Suddenly, a knowing look came over everyone's face, and we all laughed at my silliness. It turns out I had used the wrong tone and ended up with the word that means"tends to" or "criticism". Of course, my astute theological point then got lost in the discussion of how to pronounce "hammer" properly. ...Rats! 

Of course, misunderstandings can go both directions. Take, for example, this sign I saw last week. I read it several times and was completely mystified. Can you figure it out?  

The Thai says, "Please wait until the boom gate is fully raised before entering or exiting the housing development. There is a 10,000 Baht ($300) fine for breaking the barrier."....How nice that the housing development has guards at the gate, keeping an eye on the neighborhood! If you don't have a neighborhood sticker, you have to hand over your driver's license to get in. Only then will they raise the gate and let you in. My friend who lives there is sure to be safe with these guys on long as she doesn't accidentally break their gate. Then she'd be in BIG trouble!

What language mishaps have you had? Communication is a tricky business in any culture. Misunderstandings abound, even when both parties are native speakers. Communicating across diverse cultures and languages can be an even greater challenge. Best to approach it all with a generous spirit and a sense of humor. 

Thank you for your friendship, prayers and financial support that continue to sustain me and enable me to continue serving in Thailand.

   --Love, Kit