Friday, December 15, 2006

Going Down?

My parents told me this anecdote, and it still amuses me whenever I think about it.

A Western tourist was in a hotel elevator here in the Philippines. The doors opened and the following conversation ensued between a woman outside and the elevator operator:

Woman: Bababa ba?
Operator: Bababa

Going down?
Going down.

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The tourist was sort of flabbergasted at the fact that a cohesive (mini) conversation took place through numerous repetitions of just one syllable. If I try putting myself in his shoes and pretend I didn't speak Tagalog I'd be a bit freaked out at that exchange of words, too.

Languages are fun, I like learning new languages. I have some pronunciation issues with some of them, though. But listening to foreign songs helps a lot.

Tagalog doesn't pose any such problem: it's phonetic: how you read it is how you speak it--not like some other languages where the words bear little or no resemblance at all to how they're pronounced. I mean, you see letters like T and S in the written form, but they disappear once the words are spoken. (Wendz and Doc, are you reading this? Haha!)And you don't have to subject your throat, tongue, and uvula to torture when speaking Tagalog either. But I'm not sure if the same holds true when it comes to other Philippine tongues: there are more than 100 dialects spoken here.

Of course, unspoken communication is widely used and recognized. A smile, a laugh, a frown, a hug...these are all pretty much universally understood. Then there's the bird, which I've been tempted to flip quite a few arrogant Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike!


zeroimpact said...

Yes... the language that is unseen
They are the ones that we use so often

Prometheus said...

Funny, that's how Prometheus speaks. Except he ain't speaking Tagalog. When pretty gals talk to him, he goes something like babababa. He'll now tell them it was Tagalog.

Liz, Prometheus would like to learn some choice insults in Pinoy. Google's got it coming.

Wendz in France said...

That bababababa stuff was hilarious...and sounds like me when I am 2 sheets to the wind..

Was that you in the recording?

But you have me puzzled about a silent T and S in English..I can't think of one - but maybe because I just do it without thinking?

What gets my students is the pronouciation of 'ph' and 'gh' as F. And they always drop the S at the end of a word. Which drives me round the bend.

Lizza said...

ZI: Some gestures just transcend everyday speech. :-)

Prometheus: You can tell Goog "mga hayup kayo!" (you animals!), or "anak kayo ng puta!" (you sons of whores!)

Throw in some Hindi cuss words and you're all set. ;-)

Wendz: I was referring to French, my dear; e.g. hors d'oeuvres. (Where did the s in hors go?) Or bon appetit. (What happened to the second T?) Stuff like that. :-) Isn't Afrikaans spelled and uttered differently too?

And yep, that was moi babbling bababa there. Haha!

Ritardo said...

go ahead, release the birds. I like bird watching.

Matt-Man said...

I have no idea what your post was about because when I opened it up and the first thing I saw was "Going Down"...I just melted. BTW Corky told me to tell you "Hi".

Anonymous said...

Oh my God-- I've had to delete my comments three times--- gotta curb those unlclean thoughts--- lets just say, bababa is not in my vocabulary in any language!! ;)

mist1 said...

I try not communicate with people in general.

houseband00 said...

You have such a lovely (?)voice, Liz! =)

You should consider doing an audioblog. Para feeling Carrie what's-her-name of Sex And The City. =)

Lizza said...

ritardo: Okay, you asked for it. Here are two of them. :-) Thanks so much for stopping by.

Matt: Oh, you! This post wasn't even remotely about that. Corky will scratch your eyes out one of these days. Haha!

Nannan: Gah, Blogger Beta's getting to you too, huh? Keep calm, dearie. HB and H will rescue you!

Mist1: Yet they won't leave you alone!

HB: Thanks, pero nagkape ka na ba? :-D Carrie had an audioblog? She had a sex column!

houseband00 said...

I know. It's because you heard her narrative voice on the show. =)

Buhusan kita jan e. =)

Lizza said...

Ay, ako pala ang hindi pa nagkakape. Hehehe.

Odat said...

Hahaha ha?

Anonymous said...

Hello, Miss Bradshaw =)
I agree to houseband00 about the sex column... *Errrm* audioblog! You´ve got a beautiful voice, lady =)

Sanni - Blogger does not want me to comment on (Beta)-blogs! Sorry! =)

kyels said...

Tagalog is beautiful, in my opinion. And all languages are unique in their own ways!


lastlifeinmyuniverse said...

tagalog sounds like indonesian at times. like mahal kita ? its translated as "expensive we" in indonesian. and im not sure how you say shoes in tagalog but in indonesian, its sepatu and thats similar to zapato in espanol (you would know that).

ahh, the fun of languages.

H said...

Funny but Hindi is exactly like that too... how you read it is how you speak it.

Ahh. I'm going to try that babababa thing. it sounds... superbly expressive.

Anonymous said...

I agree with lastlifeinmyuniverse. I saw a Philippine (Tagalok, I suppose)movie the other day, and I noticed that some of their words are similar to our local Malay language here, whereas some sound Spanish...

You're absolutely right... languages are interesting!

Terra Shield

Michael C said...

We flip everybody off at work all the time. It's amazing we get any work done when we're all flipping each other the bird.

I like the graphic you used. The artist that painted it did a ton of that type of art with the ladies skivvies falling down. A little weird if you ask me. Sorry, but that's your worthless piece of trivia for the day ;-)

ShadowFalcon said...

Lanuages are fantastic! I speak two fluently and understand another two (which when I speak tends to confuse people untill the piece it together) but I love different languages, they are so interesting. Especaially words which mean one thing in English and something totally different in another language.


Lizza said...

odat: "Ha" can also mean "what?" (like "huh?")

So...whatwhatwhat whatwhat?

Sanni: Aww, thanks. But I'm really not into the podcast thing. Hope the Blogger issue gets resolved soon.

Kyels: Yes it is. There's something beautiful about every language, I think.

Deb: "Mahal" can also mean "expensive" here. "Mahal kita" is I ♥ you; "expensive we" or "we're expensive" would be "mahal kami." Shoes is "sapatos" -- similar to both the language there AND Spanish! :-) Quite interesting.

H: Superbly expressive it is indeed. Try it out on someone. ;-)

Terra: Spain ruled the Philippines for more than 300 years; we retained/adapted lots of their words. But there are also many that are similar to Malay. "Salamat" means thank you; you have a similar word but it means something different, I think.

Michael: You and your colleagues sound like a flighty bunch. :-D And thanks for the trivia. You never know when it'll come in handy.

Shadowfalcon: Now that's interesting. I hope you blog about your languages someday!

iz said...

LOL. That is so cute. And so confusing!

Anonymous said...

To quote Bruce Willis from The Fifth Element, "Lady, I only speak two languages: English and Bad English."

Actually, I can read Spanish (but don't speak it so good), and have some French ("Je surrender!"), then bits and pieces of American Sign. I'm so friggin' cultured.


Doc said...

OMG my mother had the exact same anecdote from the 60s.

Lizza said...

Iz: Haha! Yes it is. Glad it tickled you.

Ian: But you are so friggin' cultured. Unusually so! And you can do a mean British accent, too.

Doc: Haha! That's right, you guys have been here. Looks like it's going to be a timeless anecdote.

Dan said...

Is that you on the recording Hon? Awesome!

Next I want to hear Shakespeare's "Hamlet" translated into Tagalog, and read by you.

That would rule!

Lizza said...

Thanks! So nice of you to say so. Now you know what I sound like.

Ohhh, Hamlet in Tagalog is a tall order...even just the soliloquy would be difficult. Maybe I can just say that Dan is sexier than George Clooney in Tagalog? ;-)

Natalia said...

You can make yourself understood without language for most basic things. I am very interested in language and always find it just fascinating.


Lizza said...

Yes it is, Natalia! Another thing we have in common. :-)

Kiyotoe said...

my mother's favorite form of non verbal communication was something we dubbed "the evil eye"....translated, it meant, "your ass is grass when we get home".

Lizza said...

Haha! Hope you didn't get the evil eye all that often when you were a kid.

chandra said...


i communicate thru art. if u ahve time, come and meet me at :

warm wishes


chandra said...


you have come to me before, ... the above is my second invite....


Lizza said...

Thank you for visiting again, Chandra. Your artwork is beautiful!