Thursday, June 2, 2011


187. Arriving at work and, briefly, being surprised at the sight of my desk. 
Blue is apparently good...
Pink, not so much.

188. "Is that an Eiffel Tower in the fish tank?" 

189. Looking up the Vietnamese equivalence of psychophysics, for a TED translation project. Google Translator does not know, neither does I am putting the Vietnamese words for psychology and physics together, thus creating the Vietnamese equivalence of psychology-physics instead. Either the reviewer assigned to check my translation will have to tell me what the right word is; or potential Vietnamese viewers of Malcolm Gladwell's talk on spaghetti sauce will need to guess its intended meaning from the context, and they probably will become pretty good at doing so by the end of of the video clip, judging by the rate at which I am making up words.

1990. Kindergarten. As part of a Bé khoẻ, Bé ngoan contest -- literally translates to Healthy kid, Obedient kid -- I am asked how to say, in English, greetings in the morning. I tell them that I do not know, but that in case it would help my final standing, I know how to say greetings in the afternoon: Good morning! When the results are announced, I do not get any prize.

1998. Disneyland Paris. Some time between going around and around on the Twirling Tea Cups and running into dead ends of the Alice in Wonderland maze, we have lost the swipe cards to our hotel rooms. Making the rectangle shape with my forefingers and thumbs, I am slowly enunciating every syllable, "We... looost... our... keeeys," hoping that the receptionist understands what I mean by keys even if the fancy magnetic stripe cards did not look like typical Vietnamese keys, and promising to myself that I would learn more English when returning home. A promise that I will forget as soon as the return plane lands.

2001. It is my third day in Australia, and the new homegroup teacher is explaining where the library is. "The Rezource Center is just downstairs...," she tells us. "Mrs. Reichstein, did you say rezource or resource?" I ask, being not familiar with the South Australian accent and consequently terrified that I do not even know what rezource means. In the years that follow, determined to avoid being known as the girl who comes last in class, I completely immerse myself in English in order to improve as fast as I can, even if it is -- as I find out much later -- at the expense of my own mother tongue.  

2011. It is fascinating the way he is attached to his native language. Most likely, the attachment is because he is more fluent in it, than he is in English. Nevertheless, I would like to think (and, probably, it is partially true) that the real reason is, he has great pleasure and pride in his mother tongue, the same way I feel about English. Even if nowhere near perfect, my English is far superior than my Vietnamese, which is a shame. While immersing myself in Vietnamese is not exactly a practical strategy for now, with any luck these translation projects will help me improve my own beautiful native language. A language that now has the word tâm lý-vật lý học (in English, psychology-physics).

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