Thursday, 11 August 2011

Doctor, Doctor, My Car Needs Fixing!

When your knowledge of a language is fairly basic, understanding what people say is largely guess-work. It relies on trying to link logically together the words you recognise, and the gestures that accompany the narrative.

Sometimes though, some sentences seem to defy logic.

Take for example, Hannu describing his car problems to his family, in Finnish. This is what I could make of it:

Bla-bla-bla car bla-bla-bla garage bla-bla-bla repair bla-bla-bla doctor bla-bla-bla €1,000!”

Mmmm… Kind of made sense up to a point, but where did the doctor fit into the story? Was that a separate, unrelated sentence? In which case, what kind of treatment did Hannu get for €1,000? Or did Hannu seek a second opinion from a doctor about his car problems? Maybe the doctor was actually moonlighting as a car-repair mechanic?

That simply did not compute, so I had to ask (in English):

“What was that about the doctor?”

Cue blank faces.

“You said lääkäri”, I added.

Cue laughs from all (but me).

“No”, explained his Hannu’s wife Kaija, “he said laakeri, bearings, wheel-bearings!”

Now that made more sense.

Still, lääkäri, laakeri, easy mistake, don’t you think?


  1. Agree. Especially if one doesn't drive (like me) and doesn't even know the names for car parts in English nor Finnish.

  2. Seriously, English must be the only language where vowels are mostly interchangeable, non-descript and/or redundant!

  3. Oh yes, English is very logical. As if French! ;-)

  4. So what was Hannu’s problem with his car? Hahaha! Learning a new language isn’t that easy after all, especially Finnish. I never even got the hang of German. In hindsight, why didn’t you have a translator with you?

    Bryan Meeks