The ability to speak and understand English is relative.
Waiting for a flight at a Malaysian airport a couple of years ago, I decided to grab a cup of hot drink at a nearby fastfood restaurant.
“One cup of hot chocolate, please.”
“Finished or ready?” The lady behind the counter asked in a monotone. I did not understand what she meant, so I asked her again.
“Finished or ready,” she said in the same monotone.
Confused, I asked, “What do you mean by finished or ready? Are they types of serving?” Without waiting for her answer, I began to imagine a finished cup as frothy with perhaps, some marshmallow. The thought of it made my mouth water. A ready cup, I thought, must be…well, ready…as in ready to go. In other words, plain.
“I’ll have finished then,” I said with a hint of excitement. The lady looked at me with a question mark on her face.
Intending to clear the confusion, I asked, “Okay, so what’s the difference between finished and ready?” At that point, her beautiful round eyes looked at me as if I were from outer space.
A Caucasian whispered from behind, “She said FINISHED ALREADY.’” I was about to say that she hasn’t even taken my order yet so finished already is not possible. Then he continued, “and by that she meant that they ran out of chocolate drink and they can’t serve it now.”
Right there, I said goodbye to the frothy and chocolatey marshmallow-sprinkled cup of hot drink that I was just beginning to imagine.
The more frequent we go beyond our backyards, the more we realize that indeed there are a lot of things that we don’t know much about – understanding English, for example. Each culture has a tendency to put a borrowed language in the context and syntax of its native tongue. This is practically why effective communication is 7% words, 38% tone and 55% body language.
The Filipino English, for sure, never runs dearth of expressions that are practical for locals, but amusing and confusing for foreigners. And if anybody could point me to a nice and humorous article on that, that would be great!
Finished already? I guess it’s time to finish this article already.