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!

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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