Thursday, 9 February 2012

Mind your language: "Follow Me"

Once, my family and I were getting our photos taken.
On the count to three..
" Tree!!!"  - someone from behind the photographer shouted.

I was like... hahaha that guy is very funny. Yelling "tree" instead of "three".
It wasn't until later when I heard him talking that I realised, he wasn't kidding at all.
"Tree" was how he pronounced "Three"

This is quite a common pronunciation mistake by Malaysians.

Let me tell you another story involving a common English mistake that Malaysians make.

So I was a student in Dunedin... I was walking home ..
I walked past a few unmistakable malaysian students talking to the New World van driver.
( New World supermarket has a van that takes students home from shopping )

The conversation was something like this

Students: Can we follow you to New World
Driver: You want to follow me?
Students: Yes, since you are going that way, we just want to follow you.
Driver : you want to follow me?
Students: Yes can we follow you ?
Driver:  You want to follow me ?

The conversation was obviously reaching an impasse. My flatmate then pointed out the mistake.
"Follow" literally means to proceed behind.
What the students were asking for was a ride .
The driver though they wanted to follow behind his van?

This mistake probably stems from the chinese word " gen" which means to follow.
But it also means to go with or be together.

你跟他  ni gen ta

Ni Gen Ta - means "You follow him"

But it could also mean, "you go with him" or "you and him" or " you two together"

Hence it's not surprising for the direct translation to "go with someone" to become " to follow someone".

In Malaysia, it's perfectly fine to say " Can I follow you" when asking for a ride- this is local lingo.

But if one day you are overseas and find yourself misunderstood try

" Could you give me a ride"
"May I hitch a ride with you"
"Can I get a lift"

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