Language Art ...

Disclaimer:  This post is in no way meant to offend; it's merely my take on the complexities of communication as an expat, and how misinterpretation can often lead to some pretty wacky reactions.  

Finding humor in tragic misinterpretation.   Pic from Venice, November 2011.

Finding humor in tragic misinterpretation.   Pic from Venice, November 2011.

Language is truly an art to be mastered in Qatar.  Beyond struggling with my limited knowledge of Arabic, I often find myself befuddled by variations on English.  

But I'm getting better. 

My mastery of pidgin English is likely most obvious in dialogue with our maid, Tita L. (who's from the Philippines and whose first language is Tagalog). 

Case in point:  

On the way to the grocery store with Tita L. yesterday, we drove by one of the cushier West Bay compounds, where each house boasts a minimum of five bedrooms and two kitchens.  

Me:  "Tita L., that's how the other half lives." 

Tita L.:  "Madame?" 

Me:  "Oh, I mean, those are really, really big, fancy houses.  You wouldn't want to have to clean one of them ... they all have at least nine bathrooms."

Tita L.:  "Oh, yes, Madame.  Maybe all these houses, they come with a fool too." 

Me:  "Eh?" 

Tita L.:  "I think they all have a fool.  Maybe if I work there I have to clean the fool too." 

Me:  "Aaaahhhh, yes, a pool.  You're right.  And maybe a few fools too." 


I was barely phased this morning when Tita L. said to me:   "Madame, da lady who hab tree-plezz?  Now he hab tweenz."  

Me:  "Eh?"

Tita L.:  "Da lady who hab tree?  Now he hab two more."

Me:  (focusing, thinking, concentrating ... Aha! I GOT it!)

TRANSLATION:  "Madame, you know that woman with the triplets?  She just had twins."


Yes, I'm definitely getting better at deciphering the intended message.  Compare to one of my first trips to a local shop, where I stood stumped and mortified when the Philippino cashier asked me:  "Would you like some phuckaging, Madame?"  

Me:  "Eh?" 

Cashier:  "Phuckaging, you like me to phuckage for you?" 

Me:  "Eh?

Blessed veteran expat eavesdropping behind me in line:  "He wants to know if you'd like it wrapped."   

("Phuckaging" = Packaging = Wrap) 

Me:  "Oh, no, that's ok, no phuckaging today thank you." 


There is one that continues to catch me unawares, however, and even though I've mentioned it in a previous post, I can't help but re-post:

Tita L. to Kiddo as we're scurrying to get ready for work/school:  "Did you brush your tit?" 

Me:  "Eh!?!"

Tita L.:  "He didn't brush her tit yet, Madame."

Me:  "Oh, teeeeeeth, did you brush your TEETH?"

Bless Tita L.  She probably has a blog with a huge following in the Philippines where her compatriots laugh hysterically at my constant look of bewilderment and incessant peppering of conversation with the very Canadian "Eh?"

Good times.