Communication across cultures
One of the biggest problems in this globalization world today is communicating across cultures at all levels. My wife was telling me how bad is the wound in her finger caused by cooking the other day but I thought she was asking me how the food for the dinner was. It was good that dinner was over or I might not even have one.
This could be worse if we have to communicate in a different language across culture. One is probably blessed if he or she is born in a native English speaking country like
Well, learning Spanish may be bearable, but what about Chinese. There are so many dialects in Chinese. Should I learn Cantonese or Shanghainese or Mandarin? In a tiny land here in
Ironically, some words sound beautifully in one language can sounds disastrous in another language. The word “Pumpkin” in Thai sounds exactly the four letter words in English. The Chinese word in “Chewchow dialect” for “ear” sounds like the word “vagina” very rudely in Thai. A lovely Thai nickname ‘Tiu” means another four letter words in Cantonese. There are more like these and I can certainly write a book on it.
If you are an interpreter or translator, you may have come across some words or phrases that are simply no appropriate translation. You can explain, citing examples and allegories, but still you can not come to the exact meaning of the word. A few Thai words certainly have this kind of characteristic nature. The most difficult one and essential is “Kreng – Jai”.
“Kreng – Jai” is important and need to be tackled with care because it involves not only language but the understanding of the whole Thai culture and behavior. Many expatriates, missionaries, foreigners fail to understand Thai and the culture because they fail to understand this one single Thai word “Kreng – Jai” fully. Experts, Linguists, Expressionists, Sign & symbols reading have tried to put “Kreng – Jai” in one simple explanatory word or sentence or expression but has not been very successful so far in many years.
If wife and husband can be so mistakenly wrong in certain conversation, how much more can nations do the same wrong with different languages and culture? Let us take cross cultures communication more seriously. Let us listen more and talk less, pay attention when listening, understand what is said before we talk. It may sound easy but it in fact takes a heap of efforts to do so. So let us all make best of our efforts in Communicating across cultures.