While a lot of people here in Nepal speak English, there is definitely a need for me to be learning Nepali. This is why I’ve been going to a language class almost everyday for the last few weeks.
I’m finding that the biggest language barriers exist with pronunciation. There are many words here that sound and are spelled almost exactly the same but mean very different things. To an untrained ear (mine) it is hard to tell the difference. Then there are just the words that I think I’m pronouncing correctly and with the way I say them are completely incomprehensible to most Nepalis.
Last week was a classic example with my DiDi (means older sister but is also used to refer to women that help around the house). She is wonderful, but speaks no English and my Nepali is only (very slowly) coming along. Luckily, the teenage children who live downstairs do speak some English, so most of the time they translate for us.
I tried to ask her to cook rice pudding for us (khir). She had no idea what I was talking about.
The son from downstairs came up to try to translate. I told him that we were really hoping to have her make us khir. He stared at me.
I explained that we wanted rice pudding. He stared again.
So I continue, ” you know, it is a dessert that is sweet, that you eat after dinner.”
His response: “We don’t eat anything after dinner.”
Finally, after quite a bit of time he got his sister and after a little more explaining, she finally understood what I was asking for and said, “Ohhhhhhh, khir!”
I’m hoping that at some point in my speaking I will start to get the pronunciations right, otherwise I feel that there will be a lot more stories like this.