Knee How, Sin Chow, and Sah Bye Dee: Language on the Bamboo Road
Our last #bambooroad blog post talked about the many languages our local support staff speak. Here is Conor’s latest report from the Bamboo Road on some of the languages the riders and staff have attempted to learn.
Or to be spell it correctly, Ni Hao, Xin Chào, and Sa Bai Dee. Whether spelled phonetically or accurately, all three of these words have become important parts along the Bamboo Road. Each word serves as a traditional greeting in Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Lao, respectively. Hello and other common greetings are usually the first phrases our riders learn when entering a new country, often from friendly people passing by and shouting it our direction. This is frequently the easiest and quickest of new words for us to pick up since it is heard and used so often, but how many other words each of us learn is a personal choice and often based on necessity.
After a greeting, the common next phrases for our riders to learn are those that are most helpful along their ride each day. Many riders learn the local words for Thank You, Water, Bathroom, and How Much? Then, beyond the basics each rider learns as he or she wishes. In Vietnam, some riders learned the proper way to greet elders (Chào ông) and youngsters (Chào em), while in the hotter climate of Lao others learned how to ask for cold water (nam dim yen).
As in anytime a new language is learned, we’ve had our share of translation errors and setbacks. Whether it’s thanking a person in a language from two countries ago or asking a local how they are doing instead of how much a coke costs, we are generally given plenty of patience in our learning. Even if all language escapes us we’ve become extremely adept at all forms of sign language and miming to ask for the closest bathroom or directions to the next town. And if we have learned nothing else about communicating in a foreign place it is most certainly the value of a smile, a respectful nod, or simply a friendly wave.