A Language Barrier

I was in a famous fastfood branch waiting for my cashier to serve the meal I ordered, when I overheard the old traveling Japanese man by the next cashier asking her “Is it OLD?”, referring to the coffee she was serving.

His cashier, misunderstood OLD with COLD, and answered the Japanese, “HOT sir”.

It wasn’t quiet at all by the counter and the cashier was away from her cash register getting a cup under the cabinet, so, the miscommunication was acceptable. The Japanese repeated himself, “NO, is it OLD?” and the Filipina answered back “HOT sir.” This second time was less acceptable.

The Japanese asked again, so the Filipina moved back to her register and told the Japanese the coffee would be HOT. Frustrated with the cashier’s answer, the Japanese rephrased his question, “No, how long? WHEN?”.

The cashier got more confused, and asked back, “WHEN?”. This time, I couldn’t kept watching and wanted to help the Japanese, so I told my cashier who was at that time trying to help her coworker, “Bago daw ba ung kape? (Is the coffee new?)”. Since this was an opposite odd translation, I corrected myself immediately, “Luma daw ba ang kape, matagal na daw ba? (Is the coffee old? Was it made a long time ago?)”, which were not the best translations either because I was trying to be literal and these weren’t how Filipinos would describe it in that context.

So, the two Filipina cashiers got more confused with my translation. My cashier totally ignored me and started talking with her friend “Ano daw? When?”. Then just a few seconds later, we saw the Japanese customer retreating from the situation and walking out with his luggage but no hot coffee, while the two Filipina cashiers were mocking him as they thought his English wasn’t good.

Unlike the Japanese customer, I walked away from the counter with my order on a tray, but walked away like him feeling frustrated with the situation. I could have helped sooner, translated better to my fellow Filipinas, and prevented them from mocking the Japanese.

Witnessing this whole scene reminded me of what my American husband told me, “It’s amusing to see two non-native English speakers talk to each other in English.” But this one was the opposite.

5 thoughts on “A Language Barrier

    1. Yes.. un ang ibig niyang sabihin. Pero ginagamit din naman ang “Is it old?”, kasi may mga tanong ng americans na naririnig kong ganun…

  1. Minsan kasi, baliktad magtanong ang mga Japanese. They usually ask the negative questions / kabaligtaran ng nais nilang ipahiwatig 😀

Comments are closed.