lost in translation [pause] found in translation

[ Thank you mpytacct for the video! ]

MOST LIKELY it will be fodder for another blog, but the learning curve has been steep the last few weeks for Lakay and me.  Lakay (with a capital L) I forgot is the newest character in my blog universe, referring to my brand-new workmate who happens to be as Filipino as I am (SuperBisor sez I am mocchacino, while Lakay is cappucino), and is learning how to do the job I’m doing, who better to be his training buddy than Your Loyal Blogger?

So we showed him the skillz, the way to do things, tips and tricks and above all, the nearly-human machinery that we had come to know and love so well.  Never forgetting the personal element essential in all work environments, I also told him a little about most of the people we would be working with, actually most of the people he would be working with, since work would be mostly a two-man shift, and he would not be enjoying my Pinoy company for long.

Not the least of my discussions focused on the Kiwi accent, the spicy vocabulary that peppered the effectively all-male milieu, the sometimes raunchy humor therein, and the diverse personalities that promised to make Lakay’s first adventure in blue-collar New Zealand an exciting one.

***            ***         ***

I admit that it was a weak spot in my training performance when I told Lakay about Genghis, who I must’ve told you about in a previous blog.  Genghis is not the easiest person to like, but he is probably a model worker who has excellent work ethic and attitude.  Literally he is there not to make friends in the workplace, but if you ask him directly and sincerely, he will give you a hand in your time of need.

Apart from his stoic and workmanlike demeanor (and I’m not exaggerating), he has a quaint Eastern European accent that makes him a moving target for impressionists and jokers like me.  I never imitate his way of speaking in front of him, but I admit that I get a lot of laughs when I do so.  Imagine the Count in Sesame Street, complete with the ah-ah-ah chuckle, and you probably will get an idea of what I mean:


As it turned out, my description of Genghis as a curt, unsociable and indifferent co-worker fell short of telling Lakay what was essential : that people like Genghis (who are congenitally incapable of normal human interaction) have little or no inclination for small talk and for them, everything is about work, work and work.  Nothing personal, but  it’s always about one-upmanship when it comes to work product, work output and academic credentials.

I didn’t expect Lakay to get exposed to Genghis’s charms so soon, but on only the second night of their shift together, it happened.  Not even waiting for Lakay to introduce himself in the Quality Assurance lab, Genghis started posturing and asked him : What are your educational qualifications?  What was the nature of your last work environment?

To his everlasting credit, Lakay didn’t flinch, and answered in his best Ilokano accent : I hold a Batselor’s degree in Industrial Engineering, prom di Saint Louis University in Baguio City.  He even braced himself mentally just in case Genghis challenged him to solve differential calculus problems.  Fortunately, Genghis seemed satisfied with his answers.

Later the next day, SuperBisor tried to explain the incident as best he could, but the questions in Lakay’s mind remained unanswered : Was it just Genghis’s way of acquaintng himself with a new colleague?  Was there any malice or intent to intimidate?  I couldn’t answer these questions since I myself was clearly ticked off with Genghis.  So I couldn’t blame Lakay for his dark mood.

***   ***  ***

The next night it was my turn to be paranoid.  I was asked to do a test for a special product the factory was turning out as there was no quality officer after regular office hours.  I had done the test before, but it had been a while.  The test was very involving, required more than a dozen steps, each of which had to be done quickly and efficiently if an accurate result was expected.  I was therefore a bit apprehensive while waiting for the sample and wasn’t expecting Genghis, who matter-of-factly asked if I needed help.

In a matter of minutes, he took me through the entire process, explained each step clearly and pleasantly, and waved away my offer to do the test, explaining that I could do it next time.  He also dismissed my perfunctory offer to clean up tubes and bottles after the test, and left me both grateful and impressed, something  that hardly ever happens with any interaction with Genghis.

Lastly but not leastly, he left me with a cryptic last word : It is part of my job to teach you whatever I know, but if you want to do it your way (and come up with the same results), it is up to you.  I am just here to get the ball rolling.

It was the closest thing to a friendly personal statement from him, but later on, after a bit of analysis, I realized what he meant to say :  I am here to help you, and you only need to ask. 

Needless to say, after the shift I told Lakay what happened, I had to because (1) it was quite unexpected, and (2) there was nobody else around.  It’s fair to say that Lakay still feels a little out of sorts, but the vignette made him feel a little better.

Between cultures and languages, something inevitably gets lost in translation, and you know you’re Pinoy when you take the extra effort to find whatever it is that gets lost, and return it to the sender with a smile.

Thanks for reading!



2 thoughts on “lost in translation [pause] found in translation

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