My friend Lindsey called me at “Señora Nora” the other day, and I realized: for the last five years, I have been misleading people. My twitter handle (and skype and instagram, heaven help me) leads one to believe that I’m a Señora. And the truth is: while it has everything to do with language, it has nothing to do with Spanish.
Many moons ago, I traveled to India. I was doing a good bit of traveling at the time, and my personal goal was to be able to say hello and introduce myself in the native language of wherever I was. A worthy ambition, right?
On our first day in New Dehli, we wandered down to the market. After striking up a conversation with some shopowners (I use the term ‘conversation’ here very loosely), I thought we were understanding each other well enough for me to ask: How do you say “My Name Is _______”? After a few rounds of repeating each other in circles, like you would do in all cross-cultural conversations, I assumed I had it figured out and we walked off to another market.
We traveled around the Indian countryside for two weeks, and at every available opportunity, I introduced myself. “Namaste! Senora Nora!” I was quite proud of myself, actually. Not that I was getting people to think I was Indian, or whatever, but you know. Still proud.
At the end of our trip, we were gathered in the home of a host and we were sharing stories with our leader, David Moses. Some of my friends were teasing me about the tone I had been using when I introduced myself (it’s awkward to introduce yourself in a foreign language, ok?). David Moses overheard this gentle ribbing and said something like “Wait… That’s not how you introduce yourself.”
Naturally, I was confused. Could this native Indian really know how to introduce himself better than me? “What?”
David Moses said “Blah Blah Blah means ‘My Name Is'” (Obviously I don’t remember how to say it. Sorry if you were hoping to actually learn something here).
I was flabbergasted. “But I’ve been introducing myself like that for weeks! Why didn’t you say something!” Because it was his fault that I can’t speak Hindi.
And then, forever changing my social media profile, David Moses said “I thought that was your name!”
And for the rest of the trip, and now the rest of eternity on twitter, I was called “senora nora”.
I love hearing about traveling communication mishaps. I also have a story about asking for weapon in Germany… we’ll leave that for another time.
Have you ever miscommunicated something through a language barrier? Please share!