Dueling Translators

December 3, 2013 – Day 125

I have written before about the joys and pitfalls of technology as it pertains to my life here in Thailand and I am about to do it again.

Today’s tech tale comes on the heels of my fifth attempt to have an estimate provided to me regarding how much it would take to fix a malfunctioning door on our car. Because of my lack of fluency in the Thai language, I have had great difficulty in trying to convey my wishes to the more-than-patient employees who have had the bad luck of having to deal with my hand-waving, phrasebook-pointing antics.

Today, however, I came prepared. Mind you, I came prepared, but I was not prepared. The difference will become apparent in a few paragraphs.

Thanks to technology, I had downloaded a Thai-English dictionary into my iPod. I had expected that this bit of digital wonder would be enough to bridge the linguistic chasm that stretched before me with all I interacted with. Before departing my home, I really should have double-checked what the dictionary had in its arsenal, but fools go where angels fear to tread and this fool was ready to motor.

On this Tuesday’s attempt of having a mechanic ascertain how much money it would take to fix our non-sliding passenger-side door, I drove to a body shop and met the manager. He spoke and understood enough English so that I could tell him my door was broken, but our conversation hit a wall when he assumed I wanted the door fixed and all I wanted was a simple written estimate. At this impasse, I took out my electronic device (the aforementioned iPod) and booted up my translation app. However – and this is where the lack of preparation comes into play – I had not checked to even see that this app had the Thai words for “estimate”, “fix”, or even “door”. As you can surmise, those words were not in its vocabulary. Although if I wanted to ask where the hotel lobby was located, I was in luck.

The manager took out a piece of paper and asked me to write what it was I wanted. In my best non-cursive penmanship, I penned “I would like an estimate to fix my door that is not working”. He flipped out his electronic device (the as-of-yet-unmentioned Samsung Galaxy) and typed in the words “estimate to fix”. In less time than it takes me to type this down, he had a translation in Thai characters for what I wanted.

He then informed me that he could not help me.

I’ll have to ask my electronic translator what the Thai word is for “frustration”.


2 thoughts on “Dueling Translators

  1. Dyan

    You can not imagine how much fun it is to read your blogs! Thank you for allowing me to share your life with you all. Hoping you had a wonderful birthday!


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