Aside

You know that noise your car makes?

Pinging.  Grinding.  Screeching.  Knocking.  There are a lot of words that American mechanics know.  They’re also used to people that come in and say, “My car is making a noise,” but when asked to describe it, can’t even begin to find the words.  “Ummmm, it’s just … that noise, you know?”

So it’s hard to communicate with your mechanic.  Now suppose your mechanic doesn’t speak much English?  Suppose you need to tell him that your car makes a shaking/knocking noise somewhere between 30-50 km/h and the noise comes from the underside of the engine?

I speak a little Malay, but it turns out, I don’t speak *CAR* Malay.  I speak market Malay – is this fruit ripe?  (They always take the fruit from me and select a better one – I’ve chosen to think of it as chivalrous and not patronizing – just once I hope to pick the best one!)  I speak kid-Malay.  (“Super! No, Don’t!  Run fast-fast!”)  I even speak some grammatically correct Malay (which always throws people:  “I am now speaking as a robot would pronounce.”)  But, as I learned this week, I don’t speak CAR Malay.

In the end, I had them put the car up on the lift and pointed to where I thought the noise was coming from; then the manager took it for a drive but didn’t hear anything.  I got in and heard the noise as I drove away.  My takeaway from this is that most cars here do make noises – they’re not maintained that well, generally – so my wanting a finely-tuned family sedan turned out to be more my American heritage than local culture’s expectations of a car.  I’ll have to see if I can live with that weird noise – the environmentalist/efficiency expert in me says no – but in the meantime, I guess I get to upgrade my Malay vocabulary to include car noises.

One fun final note – the word for sedan here is “saloon.”  “Saloon” is also the translation for “salon.”  So it’s the same word for 4-door car as for haridresser.  Even the English takes getting used to!

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One response to “You know that noise your car makes?

  1. Just so you’re not talking about going to the “SALOON” to get a fix! Pastore do need to preserve their reputations!

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