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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lingual Amnesia



 Some are very quick in learning new languages but I have always been deficient in this department.
 Directions, names and languages have been my Achilles heel (not much left out right ? )
 Though by birth a Malayalee having spent my childhood in Tamilnadu I could converse read and write in Tamil but can only speak well and manage to read in my mother tongue Malayalam !
 I have always regretted this for I have missed out the rich lore of Malayalam literature and also am not able to write in it and thus unable to communicate to many in the local language .
 Hindi was another handicap for me ,again the Tamilnadu childhood and extreme antipathy to Hindi during those days there days was the cause ,
 we never had a third language of Hindi unlike in Kerala and hence the heavily accented mallu Hindi was also not my prerogative .
 So in fact my language capabilities were reduced to a meagre three Tamil, English and spoken Malayalam, that borders on the intellectually challenged level of linguistics!

 In the Gulf luckily I worked for eight years in a hospital with interpreters to help us translate to Arabic for patients who needed that .and many did ,because even educated Arabs were more comfortable in their language rather than in English .
 I even attended an Arabic course but after more than a month succeeded in learning nothing and quietly removed myself from the scene.
 In Brunei too where one could manage with English knowing Malay and Chinese is a real advantage
 Nurses here act as interpreters
 The interpreters I feel are a strange species
 Once they start their translation they get absorbed in their conversation with the patient so much so they forget there is a third person around and that’s me.
 In UAE based on the local culture one could never get to a point abruptly,
 That would be an insult
 generally it would go like this
 For example if I wanted a bone marrow done on a patient the interpreter would start off with
 Salaam maale khum and reach out to shake hands
 Maalekhum Aslam shaking hands for 2 minutes or hugging for 3 minutes or kissing on cheeks which would take 5 minutes as the case may be
 Keff halik ( how are you ? )
 Hum dulha ( fine ) this from the other side
 And then the litany of enquiry would begin!!
 How’s your family,
 How’s your wife or wives,
 How are your Children your cats goats camels fields palm trees your servants
 And if you are unlucky the patient would be courteous to ask the same questions not to you but to the interpreter
 This juncture often would create a trance situation in me and I would be transported to a nether world
 Slowly in measured slowness the topic for which the interpretation was needed would be touched up on with great finesse with a spiritual sprinkling in between ,

 This opportune moment of great importance may involve some more shaking hands or even hugging and kissing
 Then one could add another 15 minutes
 Everyone happy
 Then the topic
 can we do a bone marrow would slowly emerge from the interpreter
 this would raise some eyebrows and some questions
 finally the man would remember that somebody else called me was existing in the vicinity and would ask what the patient wanted to know
 the answer would come out crisp and clear and quick as trained to do by me then the whole process would begin again between the two important people ignoring me again
 Generally I used the time to browse FB or post a couple of pictures in it or I would quietly slip out for a cuppa coffee and time my re-entry when the mono dialogues were finished a couple of times I even wrote a blog post in the gap once.

 In Brunei things were little faster but still at times the interpreters just forget the person who needs it
 This is termed as Lingual amnesia.
 This is described in Oxford dictionary as the person who needs the language is forgotten
 (in truth its not that bad as many patients know excellent English in both countries and many also understand well ,
 just a reason for me for another blog post !)

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