Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lost in translation

One main reason why I went to Pangasinan was to document the simultaneous launching of two projects on goat, one of which is an offshoot of a project which our office funded. I was with Tito Madz, one of our senior agriculturists, who was there for the M&E activities.

It was in the launching of these projects that I met Peter. He is an intern student at the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in Ilocos Norte. To be precise, he is ¼ Swiss and ¾ Dutch. He studies in a university in The Netherlands taking up applied physics. He told me the name of his school but I have forgotten. I can’t even make myself pronounce his surname without twisting my tongue. He said he will only be here for 3 months.

When it was time for the photo op of the herd and the farmer, he was standing next to the fence (where the goats were). I would have totally ignored him had I not noticed the book he was holding. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. I said to myself, who in the hell would bring a hardbound copy of a book in the middle of a goat farm, and a launching of a herd at that? Simply put, I love that book so much that I had to ask him. He told me that, "Honestly, I still don't know what is going on here!" I nearly rolled over and laughed. He told me he came to Alaminos City to see The Hundred Islands. Our little conversation started there.

It turned out that we both didn’t understand Ilokano, the dialect spoken by the locals. Most of the participants were goat farmers and representatives from the local government and three-fourths of the program was in Ilokano. I did take basic Ilokano in UP but I have forgotten them, deliberately. So both of us were feeling weary while the program was going on. He told me he would have opted to study the dialect but his three months stay would not be enough. I asked him about being “lost in translation” and he did confirm some of his anxiety about not having to speak neither Ilokano or Tagalog. And most of the people he’s with at MMSU are not even that comfortable talking to him in English so most of the time, he is out there wondering. I can very well understand that. I reckon that there is nothing more depressing and sad than not having to effectively communicate with other people just because of language barrier.

I taught him that single phrase in Ilokano which I particularly know so well. "Diak mawatan" (I don't understand). He speaks a little French too and taught me "Je ne comprend pas" which I knew already. Thinking about it now, i wonder why I did not bother asking him what is "I don't understand" in Dutch? Ah, such a wasted opportunity.

Peter1

A little pose here and there. I kindly ask him for this pose. I wanted to see at least a fourth of the boat and the background view but I guess he was too tall that he had to bend forward.


Peter2

Gunning for the sunrise. We are both aiming for the sunrise, but he was blocking my view so I took the shot nonetheless, including our boatman.

Peter3


Checking the camera. He likes to check his camera. The water splashes on us every now and then especially when we get huge waves so we had to be extra alert on keeping our equipment safe. He asked me about my camera and made a remark, "It's just too expensive for me."

I told him that the name Peter is so common here and its Filipino counterpart, Pedro. I told him, I know at least 5 Peter (including him). He concurred.

10 comments:

haggis basher said...

Ik begrijp jon neit is I do not understand in Dutch!!
Try saying that when you are drunk!!

pieterbie said...

Dat begrijp ik niet (I don't understand that).
Ik begrijp u niet (I don't understand you).
Ik versta dat niet. (I don't understand).

What Haggis Basher was trying to write is: Ik begrijp jou niet. Thas is a variatin on my second expression, but Basher's version uses the second person singular, I use the third, which is more polite.

Yes, Peter is e very common name here in the low lands as well.

Cool that you met up with this Dutchman, handsome guy as well.

Goats, funny.
I hope maybe my boy will be able to go abroad later on, he has just started studies for bio engineer at college. So he may get interested in goats :-)

Sidney said...

I reckon that there is nothing more depressing and sad than not having to effectively communicate with other people just because of language barrier.

I will tell you a little secret. Most of the time I am just happy that I can say that I don't understand the language. That way I don't need to participate in long boring conversations in which I am not interested.
In Belgium they would call me a loner...in the Philippines I am a poor foreigner who don't understand the language! :-)

In fact being a complete outsider suits me very well. I just smile, observe and enjoy being left alone. I am not complaining...
I am not a talker anyway.

Of course there are moments that I want to connect but when really needed my language skills improve miraculously... ;-)

Don't really see the connection between Filipino goats and Dutch physics but then this is probably a metaphysical issue.
Ik begrijp dat niet ! ;-)

I agree with Pieterbie, he is a handsome boy. Maybe you should stay in touch with him... ;-)

om said...

Nice and relaxed captures. lovely atmosphere.

SUPERPASYAL said...

Did I see sparks fly somewhere? Maybe I'm just too sleepy.

ruth said...

Thanks for sharing this nice story. It's cool to meet people while traveling. Nice photos!

my gulch said...

mike,
i sure need to get drunk first before i even try saying this line. i am still thinking how to pronounce "begrijp" even now that i am sober.

Peter!
You are the 4th Peter I know. Thanks for the lesson, appreciate it a lot. Bio-engineer? oh wow, that is so cool. goat or sheep and maybe create another Dolly.

Sidney,
you've raised a very good point there. and i totally agree with you. there are just those times that when the "need to communicate" arise, some of us cannot do anything about it. Say, in the case of Peter, he has to depend on other people to translate things for him. There was even an instance when I heard someone said: "Naku yoko makipag-usap matagal, nauubusan ako ng Ingles sa kanya!" (I can't talk to him for a long time, I ran out of English words). But then again, like you pointed out, it will have to depend on how one sees things. Personally, I feel really awkward listening to people whom I don't understand a bit of what they are blabbering.

om,
Thanks! Riding a boat very early in the morning is indeed very relaxing.

Dylan,
sparks ka dyan!

Ruth,
Yea, you are so right. ;-)

iskoo said...

sana may picture kayo together, tapos background yung sunset, picture perfect

Anonymous said...

Just a reminder, most of the Pangasinenses are not Ilocanos, they are Pangasinan (speakers of Pangasinan language). Many Pangasinans do not welcome being called Ilocanos. They even find "Ilocos Region" as inappropriate term to refer to the geographic space because the term ignores the existence of non-Ilocanos in the space (28% are not Ilocanos in Region 1).

rayts said...

hi anonymous,

thanks for the comments. i am quite aware that "most of the Pangasinenses are not Ilocanos." I should know. the thing was, most of the participants who attended the activity, spoke in Ilokano. to tell you the truth, it even surprised me that they are not even speaking in Pangasinan, which is why i even asked one of the locals if what the people spoke on the stage is in indeed Ilokano, which she confirmed.

sorry if this post may have 'offense' someone in any way.

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